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February 16, 2012

Businesses failing to get value from BI initiatives

Disconnect between those who control BI and those who use it means reports are often out of date by the time they arrive

By Vinod

Business intelligence is a considerable investment but the benefits it can deliver can transform a company. However, new research suggests that many executives fail to see the value analytics can bring to their business.

The research comes from a study of 250 senior-level executives carried out by BI vendor Tableau Software. It found that 41% of respondents claimed to be indifferent to the analysis they got from their data, being neither satisfied nor dissatisfied. An additional 12% said they were actively dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with their data analysis. The "not sure" group totalled 11%.

Tableau screenshot
Results by sector of Tableau’s research

That leaves just 36% of workers either satisfied or very satisfied with the analysis they are getting from their BI initiative.

Bruno Saint-Cast, VP for Europe at Tableau Software, said the results indicate a disconnect between senior management and those responsible for data analysis and management. On average, respondents to the survey had seven members of staff dedicated to that job. With a more effective BI tool in place, those resources could be better spent elsewhere, he said.

Tableau puts great importance on the visualisation side of BI, crunching millions of rows of data into charts and graphs that it says are much easier for most workers, the workers who will be using the data daily, to understand. The visualisations are available through a web browser so are useful for workers that are often away from the office and using devices such as Apple’s iPad.

Tableau visualisation

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Paul Egan, business intelligence IT manager at Irish Life, said IT still takes too great a role in business intelligence initiatives. "IT just enables the data, which is what they should do," he said. "They should leave the visibility to people who’ll be using it."

Tom Brown, founder of Information Lab, agreed: "People are missing the opportunity to make the right decisions, because the wrong people are in charge. IT had to do it and it took time to get reports – the need for the data has gone by the time you get the reports."

However IT departments cannot be totally cut out of business intelligence initiatives just yet, as ensuring the quality of the data being used in tools such as Tableau’s is still a job for IT, Saint-Cast said. "Each time you add a level [of data] you add risk," he said. "If you are blending data sets, that is when you’ll need to work with IT."

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