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4 Steps to Improve Business Intelligence Tool Adoption Rates

When discussing Business Intelligence (BI) tools, adoption is arguably the single most important indicator of success.  Little value will be derived from the tool if it is not adopted by end-users.  Studies have shown that more than a staggering 70% of BI tools are not adopted by their intended end-users.  This is alarming, especially when considering the amount of time, effort and resources invested in these projects.  This begs the question… What can be done better by organizations implementing a BI tool, to improve adoption?

1. Start with people

If the BI tool doesn’t contain information that matters specifically to the user, it won’t be adopted.  Albeit incredibly simple, this idea is often overlooked.  Be sure to understand your audience.  During initial engagement, rather than diving straight into the data with 200+ KPIs needing to be crammed into one dashboard, I propose we do the opposite.  Let’s drill-down and understand the target end-users, on a more meaningful level, in an effort to recognize their needs.  Get to know the end-users – after all, aren’t they the ones using the tool?  Get creative.  Drop the consultative persona and throw yourself into the working environment.  Be qualitative in the research, interview actual users, and be a journalist to better understand them.  By learning their mandates, their processes, their habits and the role that data plays in their decision making, it gives the organization more focus and direction in how to proceed with the design of the BI tool. 

2. Give end-users choices

As is true in all facets of life, choice begets action, and as Picasso so artfully pronounced, “Action is the foundational key to all success”.  Be sure to embrace your users’ desire to be self-sufficient.  By emphasizing the importance of letting employees have a choice in what their dashboards reveal, the result will be a greater level of user empowerment.  It becomes clear the exact impacts a users’ actions will have on the broader organization, as opposed to an assumption.  Additionally, increased self-sufficiency will further dictate how users choose to consume their data.  By ensuring that the focus is always on end-users and the choices they have regarding how and what their dashboards let them consume, their decision-making capabilities will be augmented by giving them this ability.

3. Break down barriers

BI can move mountains (hypothetically), but what it cannot and should not ever do, is operate in a silo.  Rather than work in isolation of the organizations existing security environment, embed the BI tool in an existing web application, Intranet portal, or SharePoint page with a Single-Sign-On.  Unification within these systems, will inherently destroy the “functional silo” and encourage collaboration, cross-functional integration, and will increase adoption rates.  In addition to this, adoption of BI tools by end-users can be improved by making dashboards a part of every user’s daily routines.  Making the BI tool indispensable, is a sure-fire way to assure adherence.  One method of doing so, is to provide the functionality of metric-driven alerts and regular alerts.  By promoting a more regular consumption of information by having notifications sent directly to the user’s inbox, they will feel less burdened by the tool and more eager to adopt. 

4. Provide quality content

The long-term success of your BI tool is determined by the strength of its content.  A BI tool should serve to elevate your discussions and will naturally encourage engagement.  Content is about more than just the selection of KPIs, and includes the information accompanying them.  Content should help users better understand the actions they need to take in order to make better decisions.  Build it and they may come, but build it with high quality, unique, authentic, useful, interesting and meaningful content, and they will come.  But remember, the strength of your content is only as strong as the data provided. 

You’ve started with people and not data; you’ve taken those people and given them choice; you’ve broken down barriers and made BI habitual; you’ve generated problem-solving, purposeful content, backed by superior data; now what? If these 4 recommendations are followed during the BI implementation process, you can expect adoption rates to increase, and can better understand which users need more capabilities and provide the necessary training and support.  

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