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6 Things to Know When Increasing User Adoption of BI

Wouldn’t it be great if every time we start a new endeavor experts pave the way to our success with a list of “never do this” and “always do this” advice? Especially when an endeavor appears deceptively simply but has hidden pitfalls. That’s the case with efforts to gain deeper penetration – increase user adoption – of business intelligence solutions within an organization. And there’s a lot of that going around these days.

Some companies have found their footing with BI after initial projects to see if it delivers on its promises and now are off and running. Others started out with just executives and management as users and now want to spread BI across the organization to gain even greater beneficial insights. And a third segment are completely new to BI and want to make sure their implementation and user adoption are successful.

In a couple of sessions of my Friday #BIWisdom tweetchats, I asked participants to share their real-world kernels of wisdom on success in increasing user adoption. Here are their tweets about difference-makers that will help your organization’s user adoption efforts not to go into a tailspin.

Never do this

1. Management should never forget to explain how BI will not only help the company but also help employees do their jobs. Often, people are a barrier to success. Some people are averse to change and some are straight-up afraid of BI and how it might impact their job. Fear is a potent force! At the onset, management needs to assure users that BI is here to help, not get them fired.

2. Never implement the BI solution in a manner that makes users completely change their ways in how they work. Instead, embed the BI solution in the flow of their day-to-day life. Make sure they don’t have to go looking for it.

Always do this

3. People don’t think of themselves as ‘BI users.’ Managers always need to encourage employees to use the BI solution. One way to do this is to encourage them to look for the story that the data tells. Business users have good insights into how to make an impact on the business. Always help them understand how data can create value and impact.

4. Always provide user training. You need to ensure a level of user competency. A pitfall in increasing user adoption is to believe the vendor’s sales rep who says your employees won’t need much training because the tools are easy to use. Some self-service tools are overstated as to their ease of use, and tools are not a one-size-fits-all solution. Also, always remember that educating employees for BI solutions should not focus just on the technology; make sure their training is job or analysis focused.

5. Always provide recognition for employees whose insights from BI contribute to the organization’s success. They need to be nurtured – and even promoted if possible – within the organization. When employees perceive that using the BI solution is a path to recognition and advancement, user adoption increases.

Bottom line: Adding my own difference maker to the suggestions of the #BIWisdom tribe, #6 goes in the “always do this” list. Always remember how critical a BI “evangelist” or “champion” is to success in user adoption. Fear and lack of trust present the greatest – unspoken – barriers to user adoption.

The evangelist might be a trailblazer, one of the early adopters in the company who can share stories of proven success. Or it may be an executive in the C-suite who demonstrates – not just tells, but shows – how a data-driven culture is a winning strategy for the company.

And, finally, increasing user adoption often requires a “marketing” effort. For the greatest success, the marketing needs to explain not just “why” but also “how.” When employees understand how they can contribute to the success, there’s a better chance they’ll jump on board.


Howard Dresner is president, founder and chief research officer at Dresner Advisory Services, LLC, an independent advisory firm. He is one of the foremost thought leaders in Business Intelligence and Performance Management, having coined the term “Business Intelligence” in 1989. He has published two books on the subject, The Performance Management Revolution — Business Results through Insight and Action, and Profiles in Performance — Business Intelligence Journeys and the Roadmap for Change. He hosts a weekly tweet chat (#BIWisdom) on Twitter each Friday. Prior to Dresner Advisory Services, Howard served as chief strategy officer at Hyperion Solutions and was a research fellow at Gartner, where he led its Business Intelligence research practice for 13 years.


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