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TDWI Upside - Where Data Means Business

3 Questions Business Leaders Should Ask Before Adopting a New BI Tool

To drive business forward anytime, anywhere, business leaders considering adopting a new BI tool should ask about these three key characteristics.

The way we work has changed, but business intelligence tools haven't caught up.

For Further Reading:

Going Agnostic: Meeting an Enterprise's Changing Mobile BI Needs

Maximizing Enterprise Mobile ROI with Mobile Operations Intelligence

Natural Language Generation: 3 Reasons Why It's the Next Wave of BI

Employees are no longer tied to their desks. Many are on the go for some, if not all, of their workdays. Whether they're plugged in from their phones between meetings or working from their laptop or tablet at home, they need access to insights about their business.

Business leaders don't want to search for insights; they want what they need to know pushed directly to them. A lineup of tech tools such as Gmail, Dropbox, and Slack have made it easy for us to work and communicate seamlessly while we're away from our desks, but the majority of BI technology remains locked away in desktops or in data analysts' portable devices.

To enable decision makers to drive business forward anytime, anywhere, business leaders considering adopting a new BI tool should ask if the platform provides mobile-friendly, easily accessible, and personalized information.

Question #1: Is this BI tool mobile-friendly?

All business leaders need mobile-friendly, bite-sized insights because that's the way they access information.

The mobile world has changed our relationship to information. Now, instead of seeking out news, we rely on headlines in push notifications on our phones to update us on the stories we care about.

Today's business leaders spend a lot of time working on phones and tablets. As business leaders' time becomes increasingly remote, they need solutions that direct insights straight to the devices they carry.

There are a number of mobile-friendly BI tools on the market, but we need these tools to become the standard, not the exception. These apps make it easy to be constantly informed about business data. A quick mobile business summary enables a business leader to leverage data anytime, anywhere.

Question #2: Does it provide quick, actionable insights (without relying on a data analyst)?

BI tool licenses are underused. That's a major missed opportunity for insight potential, but it's not because businesses don't already have the platforms. They just don't have the right ones.

Today's BI software isn't accessible below the executive level for two reasons:

1. Employees aren't often aware that they have licenses or how the tool can help them do their jobs better.

2. Even if they know they have a license, they either don't have the technical background to make use of the BI tool, or they can't rely on a data analyst to help them. The data analyst is focused on delivering insights to executives.

Self-service BI tools attempt to make data more accessible to non-analyst audiences, but they often require analytical skills to generate reports and dashboards.

Therefore, decision makers should prioritize BI software with straightforward, plain-English interfaces that give any user -- not just one with a technical background -- clear information that supports business decisions.

Natural language generation (NLG) is one type of automation software that turns data trends into easy-to-digest stories and headlines. Armed with such an app, teams including marketing and sales can conduct their own analytics without having to knock on the data analysts' door.

Question #3: Does it leverage AI and ML to personalize insights?

Often, BI tool users are so overwhelmed by how much data is available that they don't know how to find what they're looking for. As a result, valuable insights go unnoticed and unused, especially for the non-analyst user.

The most useful BI systems leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning to curate the user's insights based on their preferences. These tools push what a user needs to know directly to them without having to search for it.

Some programs let you bookmark the dashboards you care most about; others learn which data you search for often, then provide it without asking. This saves team members from having to navigate vast and complex data sets.

A BI app might know which metrics you normally interact with, which metrics your boss is looking at, and even that you have a check-in with your boss today. With that knowledge, the app can show you the insights you need to know before your meeting.

A Final Word

According to business intelligence research firm Dresner Advisory Services, usability, product quality, and reliability have reached an all-time high for business intelligence software. Before you adopt it, be shrewd about which tool will give your organization maximum utility in the long run.

Chasing after insights slows innovation. Business leaders should prioritize introducing software that can deliver insights directly when and where a user needs them. Easy-to-digest and curated business intelligence delivered straight to a smartphone is a step in that direction.

About the Author

Cassidy Shield is the vice president of marketing at Narrative Science, a Chicago-based data storytelling start-up whose software products, Lexio and Quill, use AI to turn complicated enterprise data sets into easy-to-understand narratives and stories.

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