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Why do so many enterprises struggle with collaborative BI?

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In this Information Management article, Collaborative BI: Are We There Yet, Fred Powers states that improved analysis and sharing of information is the holy grail of BI.  So if it's so important, why has collaborative BI proven so difficult for companies to achieve?

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  • The BI needs for the Finance, Sales, Manufacturing, Customer Service are all different from each other even if they are looking at the same weekly Sales Report! The Sales VP may be looking to see who sold what, where and compared to targets. The Finance guys may be interested in AR and collections. The Manufaacturing guys may be interested in adjusting manufacturing schedules. Coming up with a universal set of reports useful for everybody is difficult - even if this is not needed - coming up one set of definitions of data to be collected is hard. Collaborative BI may also suffer from a multiplicity of systems to draw data from for various purposes and they are not easy to navigate in practice, especially fi they are all from different vendors! No wonder collaborative BI is nice in theory, difficult in practice!

  • I believe that the collaboration possibilities available with the last two generations of BI tools has been one substantial and limiting factor. Let me explain.

    With past generations of BI, collaboration was delivered exclusively within the BI tool or platform. In this sense, collaboration meant at least some basic workflow plus annotation capabilities. This allowed users to mark-up reports or analyses and forward them along a workgroup or decision chain for review, advancement and conclusion. This functionality has proven nice but limited in its solution appeal.

    Today's BI tools should provide this basic level of intra-platform collaboration and, at the same time, be capable of participating within a broader and modern collaboration framework that more surely enables workgroups to socialize and interact as a team on many matters, including key data analysis-related topics. Because these collaboration frameworks are built on web standards, the BI tool will have to adhere to and work within these standards (thus, working seamlessly within the broader collaboration environment).

    The primary benefit of the new, modern collaboration frameworks is that they can map to and improve a wide variety of business processes. Adding BI to those collaborative processes can yield a much greater return on the investment than the simple, collaborative BI of the past. Of course, the combination of intra-BI tool workflow and annotation capability while participating within a more capable collaboration framework will drive the most usefulness and, over time, the best total return. This level of capability and integration is necessary to really drive collaborative BI to a new level.

    Brian Gentile
    Chief Executive Officer

  • I agree with Fred’s point. Collaborative BI is more than simply emailing static reports or making notations. It’s about giving more business users access to timely information so they can use and act on the analytics together. Legacy BI solutions have failed to address this, constraining access to a small set of users due to inflexible pricing models (by seat) and security limitations (inside the firewall). When it’s cost prohibitive to share collaborative insights, the pervasive benefits are lost. SaaS, on the other hand, couples secure, role-based access and flexible deployment beyond the firewall, giving employees, vendors, suppliers and customers a unified view of information to make collaborative decisions. Our business has grown by combining an alternative pricing approach with a flexible deployment model that allows customers to scale analytics across their value chain as their business evolves and achieve true collaboration.

  • Lack of an adequate Enterprise SOA Infrastructure that provides real-time dynamic rule-based services coupled with underlining informational structures. All provided in an easy and simple Web-Based application that allows business and IT resources the ability to interrogate back-end systems and make changes in real-time without programming and as Jenny mentioned in a SaaS environment.

    Of course, one of the greater challenges is to get back-end Enterprise Information Systems (EIS) to provide non-proprietary or even open-proprietary API's, it would be best if they were Web Service-based. But alas they make too much money building one-off interfaces, dribbling out the gold nuggets of information.

    Our business supports the opportunity for the clients in-house or out-sourced experts the ability to create and manage business applications in days and weeks rather than months and years. Having moved from traditional hand-crafted application design and develop into an alternative advanced automated application design and develop client teams are delivering the same level of functionality with higher levels of quality in less time with less skilled resources.

  • Enterprises struggle at collaborative BI because it is at the intersection of multiple technology disciplines, viz. BI, BPM, SOA, Web Technologies etc., each one a big complex domain by itself.

    BI practitioners, by the very nature of their jobs, are geared towards helping organizations take better decisions. But they have got to realize that BI by itself is not sufficient for that purpose. Brian Gentile puts it nicely in his post, "BI has to work within a broader and more modern collaborative framework" and I completely agree with him.

    The technology to enable collaboration with BI as the center piece is available (though the plumbing might be little 'clunky' at this stage). But it is very important that the mind-set of people have to change - "the goal should be better business decisions and not islands of technology sophistication". And isn't it true that the mind is where most of the organizational battles are won or lost!

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