RESEARCH & RESOURCES

TDWI Report Excerpt: Expanding the Business Intelligence User Base

Data on how organizations are trying to expand Business Intelligence's use

While organizations are trying to reduce the number of BI tools they possess, they are also looking to expand the number of users who leverage BI tools to make decisions. Expanding the use of BI from power users to all users is an important priority for organizations that want to empower knowledge workers with relevant and timely information to make quality decisions and improve performance.

On average, organizations plan to boost the number of BI licenses they purchase for potential BI users from 41 percent today to 60 percent in three years, a sizable increase. At the same time, organizations also want to increase adoption rates among existing BI users. Today, only 45 percent of licensed BI users use the tools on a regular basis (i.e., weekly). In three years, organizations plan to expand regular BI usage to two-thirds (65 percent) of licensed BI users.


Table 1: BI Penetration and Use

All potential BI users with a BI license:

  • Today: 41%
  • In Three Years: 60%

Licensed BI users who use the tool regularly:

  • Today: 45%
  • In Three Years: 65%

Organizations plan to deploy BI tools to a majority of their employees in three years. Based on 594 responses.



Doing the math, this means that currently an average of 18 percent of potential BI users actively use BI tools, but this will double to 39 percent in three years. Even if our respondents are overly optimistic (which is usually the case), this is still significant growth in the penetration and use of BI tools.

Characteristics of Enterprise BI Tools  The key to increasing the penetration of BI tools is multifaceted. In the past, the lack of adequate training, overly complex BI tools, and deep per-seat discounts offered by vendors contributed to an abundance of BI shelfware. In the future, organizations need to make sure they deploy BI tools and applications that are fast, intuitive, and customized to a user’s role in the organization. The BI tools and applications must also provide access to timely, relevant, and accurate information and be able to reach into operational systems, if required.

Push Approach  In scaling BI environments, organizations often try a “push” approach in which they convert a standard report to a PDF or Excel document and e-mail it to multiple recipients in either an automated or manual fashion. This lets organizations deliver the output of BI tools to additional employees without increasing their BI licenses. However, two factors are slowing the adoption of the push approach to BI: some BI vendors are now charging “recipient” licenses for these indirect users; and users sometimes think these “pushed” reports are spam. Accordingly, the percentage of indirect or recipient BI users will drop slightly from 58 percent today to 52 percent in three years, while the percentage of direct users will increase inversely.


Table 2: Direct versus Indirect BI

Indirect BI users ("recipients"):

  • Today: 58%
  • In Three Years: 52%

Direct BI users:

  • Today: 52%
  • In Three Years: 58%

The percentage of users who access BI information directly will increase, while BI recipients will decrease. Based on 594 responses.



Pull Approach  Instead, the survey shows that the trend is to empower users by giving them Web-based BI tools and analytic applications. The percentage of Web BI users will increase from 55 percent today of all potential BI users to 70 percent in three years. Conversely, the percentage of desktop users will drop from 45 percent to 30 percent in three years. (See Illustration 3.) The Web has been a boon to BI because it reaches anyone with a browser, including customers and suppliers, and eliminates the need to install software on users’ desktops, cutting implementation times and reducing support costs. The Web makes it easy to deploy BI dashboards, scorecards, and portals that contain key metrics and reports, as well as domain-specific analytic applications (such as finance, sales, and marketing) that leverage BI tools.


Table 3: Web versus Desktop

Desktop BI users:

  • Today: 45%
  • In Three Years: 30%

Web BI users:

  • Today: 55%
  • In Three Years: 70%

The Web is quickly becoming the primary BI platform. Based on 594 responses.


This article was excerpted from "Enterprise Business Intelligence: Strategies and Technologies for Deploying BI on an Enterprise Scale" by Wayne W. Eckerson with Cindi Howson, published by TDWI. The full report is available online (short registration required). Report sponsors include Actuate, Business Objects, Cognos Inc., Hyperion, Information Builders, SAP America, Siebel Systems, Inc., and Temtec.

About the Authors

Wayne Eckerson is an internationally recognized thought leader in the business intelligence and analytics field. He is a sought-after consultant and noted speaker who thinks critically, writes clearly, and presents persuasively about complex topics.

Eckerson has shared his insights and advice with a wide range of companies. Recent clients include AAA, Air Canada, Carlsberg, Boston Beer, New Balance, Avalon Bay Communities, and TE Connectivity. He has also conducted many groundbreaking research studies, chaired numerous conferences, and written two widely read books: The Secrets of Analytical Leaders: Insights from Information Insiders and Performance Dashboards: Measuring, Monitoring, and Managing Your Business.

Eckerson is founder and principal consultant of Eckerson Group, LLC, a business-technology consulting firm that helps business leaders use data and technology to drive better insights and actions. His team of senior researchers and consultants provide cutting-edge information and advice on business intelligence, analytics, performance management, data governance, data warehousing, and big data. They work closely with organizations that want to assess their current capabilities and develop a strategy for turning data into insights and action. He can be reached at wayne@eckerson.com.


Cindi Howson is a TDWI faculty member and the founder of BI Scorecard, a resource for in-depth BI tool evaluations based on exclusive hands-on testing. She is the author of Successful Business Intelligence: Secrets to Making BI a Killer App, SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.0, The Complete Reference and is a frequent contributor to Information Week. Prior to founding BI Scorecard, Howson was a manager at Deloitte & Touche and a BI standards leader for a Fortune 500 company. She has an MBA from Rice University.

Get to Know Cindi Howson

Embracing Emerging Trends in BI: Bringing Cool into Your BI Portfolio (TDWIWorld Conference Orlando 2012)

BI and Mobile Users: A Conversation with Cindi Howson


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