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white_paper_dashboards_2

  1. 1. 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
  2. 2. 1 Introduction 1 Time for Change 3 Changing Roles in the BI Landscape 3 Business Users 3 Analysts 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 9 Conclusion 6 Table of Contents
  3. 3. Information Builders1 Introduction 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 go without? 1 Howson, Cindi. “Despite Successes, BI Adoption Is Flat,” InformationWeek Software, November 2011. 2 Harris, Jeanne G., Craig, Elizabeth, and Egan, Henry. “Counting on Analytical Talent,” Accenture Institute for High Performance, March 2010. 3 Martin, Lexy. “CedarCrestone 2012–2013 HR Systems Survey Highlights,” CedarCrestone, November 2012.
  4. 4. 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.
  5. 5. Information Builders3 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 typical enterprise. 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 analytical content. Next-generation BI portals provide such an environment, one that empowers each user at any level with more control, more freedom, and more information. Business Users 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. Analysts 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
  6. 6. 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.
  7. 7. Information Builders5 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 power users ■■ Analysts can rapidly create and maintain portal pages ■■ IT can create versions of portals for more users – customers, suppliers, partners, and other external constituents 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 existing pages The New WebFOCUS BI Portal
  8. 8. Don’t Build Dashboards – Assemble Them6 ■■ Leveraging interactive container menus and layout options, for full control over how information is displayed ■■ Retrieving and analyzing information via their device of choice: desktop PC, laptop, tablet, or smartphone 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.
  9. 9. Information Builders7 Empowering IT 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
  10. 10. 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 questions. 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
  11. 11. Information Builders9 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. Conclusion
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