Posted by: Charles Maitland | Friday 18 April, 2008

Defining "Use" in BI

There is an interesting post over on the BI Blog on the “The Importance of “Familiarity” to your BI Users“.

Apart from the importance of a high availability of Brownies at conferences, Guy highlights the importance and difficulty of getting people to “use” the BI tools that CIOs are implementing.

I think that such a debate needs to take a step back and examine the definition of “use”. Too often BI solutions are being designed, pitched and implemented with a level playing field approach. The idea being “we must include the ability to do XYZ so we can appeal to the corporate enterprise analyst”. This then creates the usability issues Guy refers to.

My feeling is that the BI industry needs more segmentation rather than the current trend to all encompassing Uber applications. I also question, but have not formulated a definitive opinion, the drive to tie all BI to Excel. Yes management and accountants love Excel but is that really the extent of the user base?

I know in many implementations I have been involved with the end users knowledge of Excel is at the level of rote learning, Click this, enter that, save there. If that is all the users are doing why try and force the BI application to work and fit into this unsuitable environment?  They could just as easily learn a new application. In fact a new application freed from the constraints of Excel may be much easier and therefore cheaper and more effective to implement.

So the question remains what is the definition of “use” and should we be tying our applications to an environment that is only really used and understood by 1% (guess) of our target audience?

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