Ten Reasons Your Users Won’t Use Your Business Intelligence Solution

October 9, 2012
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According to Gartner, over half of all Business Intelligence (BI) and Data Warehouse projects fail.

Even those that appear to succeed, eventually fail or cease being put to good use. User adoption is the key success criteria for any BI project. If your users USE it and get value from it, you have succeeded. However, if they stop using your shiny new reporting system and creep back to using Excel spreadsheets, then you have a real problem.

According to Gartner, over half of all Business Intelligence (BI) and Data Warehouse projects fail.

Even those that appear to succeed, eventually fail or cease being put to good use. User adoption is the key success criteria for any BI project. If your users USE it and get value from it, you have succeeded. However, if they stop using your shiny new reporting system and creep back to using Excel spreadsheets, then you have a real problem.

In this day and age, good, reliable information is even more important than ever. Managers need to make fast, well informed decisions to help the business stay ahead of the pack. The moment your managers lose access to good, up-to-date information, your entire business is at risk.

Ensuring your users continue to use your BI solution is therefore critical. So WHY is it so many BI solutions fail?

See if any of these strike a chord with you:-

Project Stalled or Went Over Deadline/Budget

This could be down to your approach. The problem with most BI projects is that they start life as a typical Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC) or Waterfall project. And that’s the first mistake. Asking users what they want from a reporting solution is fraught with problems. Most users don’t know what they want, or cannot articulate their requirements to IT. Only when they SEE something can they fully engage in an intelligent conversation about their true requirements. The catch is, you have to build something first! Traditional approaches try to solve the problem in one go, and that simply cannot work when your users don’t know what it is they want. Before you know it, you’re drowning in change requests, redesigns and rewrites – and the project is over time and/or budget (usually both).

Solution:- Adopt an Agile approach. Start with a high-level requirement, prototype and reiterate. In the long run, you will save much more time (by not wasting it on writing user specifications which are going to be wrong anyway), plus your technical people and business will reach a shared understanding of the task at hand, allowing them to work far more cohesively.

The Numbers Cannot Be Trusted

If your reports show different numbers, you have data issues. This happens when there is no single version of the truth upon which your business users can rely. If your reports are running straight off your data sources or your data hasn’t been correctly cleansed, the differences in reports can be enough to put your users off using them.

Solution:- Look at developing a data-mart or data warehouse. Create an environment where no-one trusts a report UNLESS it has been sourced from the data warehouse. By creating a well-ordered, structured data warehouse, you also pave the way to true self-serve reporting.

Reports Take Too Long To Run

If a user has to wait hours for a report to run every time they want to make an ad-hoc query, then eventually they will stop using the report  – and that’s not good for business. Users demand well-architected information systems that deliver answers in seconds, not hours. If you are reporting directly from a source system, then you are impacting the speed of your reports AND the users actually performing daily transactions on the source system.

Solution:- Get a solution that can schedule reports to run out-of-hours, or build a separate data mart/warehouse so running reports with big queries won’t impact other users.

Requirements Have Changed Since The Project Began

Often, delivery times for BI projects take so long that the grass literally grows under your feet. By the time the project is completed, business has moved on and requirements have changed.

Solution:- Aim for shorter delivery cycles – don’t try deliver everything at once. Use an approach that is adaptable – and even embraces – change. It is well-proven that change WILL happen.

The World Has Moved On After Delivery

Business Intelligence projects are a journey, not a destination. Times change, the world changes, your business changes, and so will your reporting requirements. Just as your business needs to adapt and change, so does your BI solution. It’s a fact of life. If you cannot embrace change, your BI solution will quickly become out-of-date – and your users will stop using it.

Solution:- Build a well-architected solution that is open-ended and adaptable. Use modern tools to help build your data mart/warehouse quickly to facilitate fast changes.

Inadequate Training

Did your users receive the appropriate amount of training in order to use your Business Intelligence solution? In an ideal world, a good BI system will be simple and intuitive to use – and many are – but if your solution is a more on the complex side, perhaps it is NOT safe to assume “the users will get it”.

Solution:- Make sure your training manuals and documentation are up to date. Give someone the responsibility of training new and existing users on how to get the best from your BI system.

Delivery Did Not Meet User Expectations

There is a clear disconnect between users and IT. A shared understanding hasn’t been reached. IT went ahead and built something that the users didn’t want, or has now changed. The users were forced to sign-off a specification they either didn’t understand or misinterpreted in order to get the project started.

Solution:- A prototype/reiterate approach would have solved a lot of headaches, and educated IT along the way. A shared understanding would have been reached and IT would have delivered exactly what the business wanted.

Your BI Solution is Not Available to Everyone

Perhaps your users don’t use your BI solution because they can’t get access to it? It could be that insufficient numbers of user licences have been purchased, or concurrent user licenses are in use when named-user license may have been more appropriate?

Solution:- Review your software licencing. Make sure that frequent/power users have available access via named-user licenses, and reserve concurrent licensing for less-demanding users.

Reports Too Static – No Self-Serve Reporting.

Modern, tech-savvy users demand modern technology solutions. If your reporting solution doesn’t provide up-to-date methods of information retrieval, you run the risk of pushing your users into information cul-de-sacs. A modern BI solution allows users to choose the information they want in a report, and decide how it should be filtered, sorted and charted. In a web-browser too! This is best for everyone since the users are generally happier and IT has less work to do in the report-building space.

Solution:- Choose a modern up-to-date Business Intelligence solution that allows IT to create a semantic layer that users can use to build their own, self-serve reports and share them with fellow business users.

Users Simply Won’t Give Up Excel or Whatever It Is They Use

No matter how amazing your BI solution, there are always those that refuse to let go of the status quo.  Some may have you believe that their Excel spreadsheet provides far better information than your new corporate dashboard. The fact is, you have silos of information residing in these kinds of solutions that could quite literally be risking your business. Users that stubbornly refuse to adopt the BI system can be a real headache, and plant seeds of doubt in the heads of other users.

Solution:- Get stubborn users involved early on. Give them the responsibility to contribute to the BI solution and you will find that they are not only adopters, but evangelists.

If any of the above resonates with you and your current situation, then hopefully this helps give some guidance to resolution.