Self-Service BI Customers Are Not All the Same (Part 1)

July 18, 2013
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As I discussed in The Road to Self-Service BI, enterprises need a better understanding of self-service BI so they can avoid the common mistakes often made with it.

As I discussed in The Road to Self-Service BI, enterprises need a better understanding of self-service BI so they can avoid the common mistakes often made with it.

Bike-raceCustomers come in all shapes and sizes

In almost every industry, marketing groups perform customer segmentation analysis for their companies to sell products or services targeted at specific segments. They target restaurants, hotels/motels, cars/trucks/SUVs, cameras and beer to different customer segments based on needs, perceived value (by customer), income and many other factors.

Customer segmentation is Marketing 101, but for some reason the high tech industry doesn’t seem to get it. In fact, their strategy is often one-size-fits-all.

The problem starts with the industry research analyst firms, who rate “best” products according to the most functionality and, often, the most customers. (Although in BI licenses sold may not equate to active BI users.)

The high tech titans exacerbate the problem when they acquire companies with promising new technology and then assimilate those products into their one-size-fits-all products — the BI suite in our technology segment.

Bike-recreationalBased on high tech marketing and industry analyst perspectives, everyone would be buying $2,000 digital SLR cameras and $5,000 Tour de France road bikes. But for some strange reason, more people buy point and shoot cameras for one tenth the cost or just use their smartphone for a camera. They buy basic bikes at their local bike shop. This is, of course, not strange behavior at all since the digital SLR cameras and Tour de France bikes are for a specific and very narrow customer segment.

So why does the high tech industry feel that every customer wants or needs the most feature-packed (and likely expensive) product?

What about business value?

IT groups then run BI tool evaluations using the industry research firms’ ratings to select the single, perfect BI tool, which is likely a BI suite. Industry pundits and high tech vendors all proclaim that is cheaper and easier to have one BI tool “to rule them all.” They tout Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) because it sounds more high tech (nerdy) than cheap.

The question that needs to be asked is: who benefits from the one-size-fits-all mentality? Certainly, the vendor selling the BI suite benefits. Also, the IT group supporting BI will likely find it easier to support a one-size-fits-all product. 

TCO is oriented towards product vendors and IT groups, but what about the BI customers? No, I don’t mean IT, but the business people who need BI for their work! Where in the selection process is business value and the business return on investment (ROI)? There is no ROI without business people actually using the BI tool in their work.

BI tool usage (not installed licenses but active users) remains low at most enterprises, even after they select the “best” BI tool.  Add to that the fact that the truly pervasive BI tool is still the spreadsheet.  It seems obvious something is broken. Although one-size-fits-all and TCO should be considerations, without pervasive business usage then there is no business value.

In the next post we will discuss BI customer segmentation.