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User Experience: The Secret Ingredient to Analytics Success

Don't miss the opportunity to create enthusiastic customers for your analytics platform while still delivering innovative insights.

Enterprise analytics takes on many forms today, from basic reporting and dashboards to machine learning and artificial intelligence. Regardless of the specific tools and technologies, there is one feature all analytics initiatives have in common -- their value lies in their adoption and ongoing use.

Unfortunately, success in these areas is often elusive. Business users' increasingly digital lives have raised expectations for what workplace applications will look like and how they will function. Yet tools that are common to consumer software development (such as user interviews, design personas, and wire-framing reviews) are frequently overlooked in enterprise analytics development, resulting in products that cause user frustration and stifle adoption.

The UX of Analytics

According to Nick Kelly, principal at G&K Consulting, much of this friction occurs right at the level where the user and the system meet. In other words, the dashboard.

"Dashboards are often designed by a developer whose goal is simply to load as many features into the dashboard as possible," he explains. "However, modern consumer UX practices have abstracted complexity from the user interface, a shift that must happen for analytics and business intelligence as well." Kelly likens this level of abstraction to Google's search engine -- a deeply complex system with a deceptively simple interface.

"There is an opportunity for analytics platforms to innovate on the delivery of insight in much the same way," Kelly says.

Know Your Users

This typically starts with properly identifying and understanding users and their objectives. Though many BI and analytics developers continue to rely on tried-and-true requirements gathering processes, others are turning to more contemporary approaches such as design thinking and agile development.

TDWI's senior VP of research David Stodder notes that by applying these methods, "application designers and developers can collaborate more effectively with internal users to transform the creation of BI and analytics applications.

"Design thinking methods are human-centered," Stodder continues. "By using them, organizations can focus on how the application or system will solve problems humans encounter."

Analytics Adoption: The Last Mile

The expectation, of course, is that by being more thoughtful and focused during the design and development stages, your resulting product will be enthusiastically embraced by business users, thus creating a positive outcome for them and the organization as a whole. However, such an outcome requires ongoing evaluation and, if necessary, implementation of tactics such as newsletters and workshops.

"Analytics technology has come a very long way," Kelly explains, "and at times the acceleration has exceeded the human ability to keep up." Your analytics endeavors will be more successful, he says, if you take ownership of the end-user factors.

Learn More

Nick Kelly is leading upcoming TDWI seminars in Dallas and Boston that will help you understand the user experience factors that lead to analytics success or failure. Both sessions also feature a virtual classroom option.

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