A White Paper
Don’t Build Dashboards – Assemble Them
Deliver Self-Service Analytics to Everyone With
a Next-Generation BI Portal
WebFOCUS iWay Software Omni
1 Time for Change
3 Changing Roles in the BI Landscape
3 Business Users
4 The IT Department
5 The New WebFOCUS BI Portal
5 Empowering the Business User
6 Empowering the Analyst
7 Empowering IT
8 InfoApps™: Fast and Simple Answers to Business Questions
Table of Contents
Over the past decade, companies of all sizes and across all industries have invested significantly in
business intelligence (BI) solutions to improve information access and enhance decision-making.
But many are now questioning whether or not their investments are really paying off, and what
can be done to maximize returns.
In spite of the money spent and the time devoted to evaluation, implementation, and
maintenance, penetration for BI solutions has remained far lower than desired. In fact, since 2009,
BI usage rates have remained flat, at around 25 percent, according to BI Scorecard’s Cindi Howson.
Which means, she says, close to 80 percent of employees who make decisions still “lack the tools
to make them on facts, relying instead on static spreadmarts or gut feel.”1
Many vendors have responded by trying to develop tools that make dashboard building easier for
analysts without the help of IT staff, but time has proven that giving even more tools to analysts
won’t really help organizations deliver BI to the masses.
It’s business users – not analysts – who are demanding more from BI. An Accenture study shows
that the majority of users in the typical organization are “analytic amateurs,” while only a small
number can be considered truly savvy with analytics.2
These amateurs, primarily non-technical
professionals, are the ones who need to leverage the output of analytical models to enhance core
business operations. But they lack the required skills and know-how. What they need are intuitive
apps and the means to select and manage their own content, not tools.
Interestingly enough, the skills distribution presented by Accenture ties quite accurately to the
estimated penetration levels of BI in the enterprise. Some would argue that analysts conduct most
BI product evaluations, and therefore the selection is heavily biased towards their needs and skills.
The other 70 percent to 80 percent (the amateurs) are left lacking, which is, many believe, the
primary contributor to low BI adoption levels.
Time for Change
Low BI adoption rates can no longer remain the status quo. The advantages of putting vital, timely
information into the hands of everyone, including managers and front-line workers, is clear. In
a recent CedarCrestone survey, only a small number of respondents (5 percent) indicated that
they have deployed a BI solution that puts multisource data into the hands of managers. These
companies, however, achieve an average of 12 percent higher sales per employee than those
companies that make the same information available only to their analysts.3
So how can companies successfully make BI more pervasive within their enterprises, ensuring
that reporting and analytics are fully embraced by the 70 to 80 percent of users who currently
Howson, Cindi. “Despite Successes, BI Adoption Is Flat,” InformationWeek Software, November 2011.
Harris, Jeanne G., Craig, Elizabeth, and Egan, Henry. “Counting on Analytical Talent,” Accenture Institute for High
Performance, March 2010.
Martin, Lexy. “CedarCrestone 2012–2013 HR Systems Survey Highlights,” CedarCrestone, November 2012.
Don’t Build Dashboards – Assemble Them2
A new generation of BI is emerging, one that leaves behind the Microsoft Office-like approach
in which companies rely on a handful of core tools that are too complex for the typical business
user. Instead, in an effort to expand the use of BI beyond the analyst role, companies are seeking
an approach that more resembles the Apple “app store” paradigm, where the BI environment is
extremely scalable, making a variety of BI apps and content readily available to users through a
simple, intuitive interface.
In this paper, we will examine the shifting roles of various user communities in the BI landscape,
and demonstrate the importance of empowering functional managers and front-line workers
with fast, easy, self-service access to critical information from a multitude of sources. We’ll also
discuss the most effective ways to expand BI beyond the analyst realm, while reducing the
reporting burden on IT staff. Finally, we’ll introduce a next-generation BI portal that delivers more
information to more people than ever before, and InfoApps™, easy-to-use apps that provide
business users with quick, accurate answers to specific business questions.
To make BI more pervasive, various user groups – business users, analysts, and IT – must evolve
their approach to BI, and the solutions at their disposal.
Organizations have continuously struggled to free business users from reliance on IT by buying
and implementing “BI tools built for everyone”. It’s likely that analysts have evaluated these
tools according to their own needs and requirements. The tools chosen will enable analysts to
answer many data and analytic questions, but are often too complex and time-consuming for
business professionals, the amateurs who Accenture says represent as much as 80 percent of a
Those same tools, however, can be leveraged to solve problems that concern a broader
community of users. But they must be applied to create an environment where every
user, regardless of their skills and needs, can independently access vital information and
Next-generation BI portals provide such an environment, one that empowers each user at any
level with more control, more freedom, and more information.
It is not unusual for a community of users to have thousands of reports, dashboards, and other
items available in a repository. But neither analysts nor IT developers can customize that content
to the specific needs of each individual user. To satisfy unique requirements, business users must
be given the ability to manage their own content. They must be able to replace old, outdated
information on dashboards with new or more relevant data. They may also want to add their own
dashboard pages, select content they want, and determine how that content will be displayed.
They may even want to share those displays with other users who have similar business questions.
More importantly, the content that business users can select must fit the app paradigm. People
will no longer skim through a 50-page report to find the single piece of information they want.
Today’s business users need a simple and straightforward way to get answers in a single click. And
those answers must be brief enough to be displayed on a smartphone.
As demand for information from employees, customers, and business partners has continued
to rise, the role of the business analyst has also grown. Today’s business analysts do more than
just build reports and dashboards; they serve as more of an analytic content manager for various
groups of users.
In this expanded role, they are responsible for maintaining and customizing portal pages for
each stakeholder community. This includes creating layouts and content blocks, defining
custom information navigation, modifying banners and menus, applying different style sheets
to match different identity standards, and much more. To be successful, analysts need broad
interdisciplinary skills – analytic, design, and web development knowledge, which can be hard to
acquire – unless the portal solution of choice provides out-of-the-box WYSIWYG tools that can be
used with minimal training.
Changing Roles in the BI Landscape
Don’t Build Dashboards – Assemble Them4
This role expansion is particularly important because, historically, analysts have distributed
complex visual analyses in Microsoft PowerPoint, because it was the only tool available with easy-
to-use features for laying out information. However, as demands for more information continue to
come from more people, this static approach simply cannot scale to meet everyone’s needs.
The IT Department
IT departments have always been burdened by requests for customized information from
different user communities. For example, a company with 50 different partners may need to
create 50 different portals, each with its own look and feel, custom banners, security codes, and
role management. While getting the right information to all those partners is crucial, it needs to
be done in a way that frees IT teams from these cumbersome requirements, so they can focus on
more strategic initiatives.
To relieve IT of these responsibilities, the BI portal environment must support delegation, so that
groups can easily manage their own users. Additionally, reporting templates should be deployed,
and must be robust enough to generate any number of user-specific versions, while adopting
a distinct look and feel for the brand. Extensive portal layout capabilities are also important, so
versions can be branded for each user group without the need for added design work.
While easier and more intuitive tools benefit business users, a platform that supports more
powerful content management, sharing, and distribution is needed to free the entire community
of users, regardless of skills and needs. The right approach – a next-generation BI portal
environment – will facilitate more collaborative information creation and sharing, which will
ultimately foster greater knowledge and improve decision-making.
Organizations looking to make BI more pervasive must assess needs and skills first, and then
match them with appropriate technologies. Next-generation BI portals allow users to select from
many different types of content and apps that answer specific business questions or address
certain issues. Users, who are already familiar with how to arrange and manage PowerPoint or
web content, will clearly prefer this approach because it will enable them to determine what
components they see, how they are displayed, and how they interact with them, instead of forcing
them to build their own reports and dashboards.
The newly designed WebFOCUS BI Portal from Information Builders combines easy-to-use tools
for IT professionals and analysts, with robust and intuitive self-service capabilities for business
users, to empower more people with the information they need to make better decisions. With
the WebFOCUS BI Portal, organizations can increase BI penetration by empowering everyone,
regardless of their skills and needs, to fully benefit from business intelligence:
■■ Business users can assemble and maintain their own content, without assistance from IT staff or
■■ Analysts can rapidly create and maintain portal pages
■■ IT can create versions of portals for more users – customers, suppliers, partners, and other
Empowering the Business User
The WebFOCUS BI Portal frees IT and analysts from the endless cycle of report generation and
customization, giving business users the ability to instantly satisfy their own information needs by:
■■ Dragging and dropping content to create new pages, or replace/update stale content on
The New WebFOCUS BI Portal
Don’t Build Dashboards – Assemble Them6
■■ Leveraging interactive container menus and layout options, for full control over how information
■■ Retrieving and analyzing information via their device of choice: desktop PC, laptop, tablet, or
Empowering the Analyst
Full web design capabilities, including a unique and intuitive user interface, allow analysts to create
and maintain portal pages quickly and easily by:
■■ Mashing up information from any source, including structured and unstructured data, as well as BI
and social media content
■■ Branding content for internal stakeholders and departments, as well as partners, customers, and
other external constituents
■■ Customizing content navigation and menus to deliver personalized information to specific groups
■■ Tapping into robust styling automation that promotes collaboration and saves time
Portal design is also significantly enhanced. Analysts have precise control over all layout and styling
options for banners, content containers, and content to ensure delivery of visually stunning and
compelling information on any device. Additionally, the WebFOCUS BI Portal’s context-sensitive
property panels offer richer, yet simpler design than tools like PowerPoint.
With the WebFOCUS BI Portal, IT departments are freed from the burden of delivering customized
information to different groups of users. More information can be made available to more partners
and suppliers, with less effort, through features such as:
■■ A unified security model that simplifies SaaS deployments and user administration
■■ Ongoing security certification to ensure a hacker-proof environment
■■ Continuous scalability testing to support the most users with the least hardware
Don’t Build Dashboards – Assemble Them8
The evolution of the apps market is a clear indication that more people are demanding purpose-
specific, simple-to-use apps that will allow them to ask basic questions and receive direct answers.
A smartphone weather app is a good example. While it may not provide highly sophisticated
analytical capabilities, it offers the user exactly the information needed to answer their specific
question – do I need an umbrella or a coat today? This simplicity and usefulness has prompted a
massive number of downloads of similar apps.
This ease and convenience is also the reason why the 70 percent to 80 percent of users classified as
“analytical amateurs” would prefer to use apps rather than tools. Analysis can be a slow process, often
done in isolation and quietness. Which is why most professionals will rely on the fastest and simplest
way to get information – their tacit knowledge, rather than analysis – when changes in the work
environment require an instant answer, reaction, or response. In other words, the time and effort
required with analytical tools will actually prevent business users from taking advantage of them.
InfoApps from Information Builders are intuitive, visually compelling, and interactive, providing
business users with instant insight. Employees, partners, customers, and other non-technical users
can leverage InfoApps to immediately discover the answers to numerous mission-critical business
InfoApps are ideal for employees, partners, customers, and other business users because:
■■ They are extremely straight-forward and easy to use, so users can begin working immediately,
with no training required
■■ A single InfoApp can be used to answer multiple related business questions
■■ They work on any device: tablet, PC, smartphone, etc.
■■ They offer high visual appeal and branding capabilities
InfoApps can be easily dragged and dropped directly onto portal pages. They are also extremely
scalable, and can be made available to an almost unlimited number of internal and external users,
without the need for extensive long-term maintenance or IT involvement.
InfoApps™: Fast and Simple Answers to Business Questions
For years, organizations have tried to expand the use of BI beyond analysts and power users, but
still struggle to promote high levels of BI adoption among the 70 percent to 80 percent of “analytic
amateurs” in their enterprises. Thanks to a new generation of BI portals, that is all about to change.
The robust combination of Information Builders’ WebFOCUS BI Portal and InfoApps empowers
all users – business professionals, analysts, and IT staff – with the tools and apps they need to
leverage timely, vital information for improved decision-making. Business users will have instant
access to the information they want through an intuitive environment that can be customized,
while analysts can leverage simple, efficient design capabilities that make it easy to create and
maintain portal pages. And IT departments will finally be freed of the burdens associated with
satisfying the information needs of different user communities.