Collaborative Business Intelligence is a Diamond in the Rough
Here’s a serious number: $31.5 billion a year. Unfortunately, it’s not a revenue growth indicator. It’s how much Fortune 500 companies lose per year because of not sharing knowledge, according to an IDC study. Consider that $31.5 billion in light of the necessity for idea/insight sharing in the Digital Age, “Sharing Economy,” and innovation happening through the Internet of Things, and it’s easy to see that the number could quickly grow even larger.
The goal of collaboration is to improve an outcome; collaboration results in decision-making information (and even solutions to business problems) that are greater than one person can create. Certainly this is essential in this new business world where human-performed work is quickly becoming more knowledge based and sharing business intelligence and experience is a key to success in innovation and agility,.
So why the $31.5 billion annual loss? Why isn’t collaboration happening more? I posed this question to my #BIWisdom tweet chat group on Twitter one Friday. And I shared with them two findings in our 2015 Wisdom of Crowds Market Study on collaborative BI:
" In most organizations, sharing business intelligence insights is still ad hoc and inconsistent in nature.
" Only 14 percent of the study respondents reported their organizations use collaborative features in BI tools – even though these features are often included free.
As you’ll see in the following recap of their tweeted conversation, it’s clear that the BI users, vendors and consultants among the #BIWisdom attendees have differing opinions on where the blame lies for these findings.
It’s the BI vendors’ fault:
" “I wonder if BI vendors are giving people capabilities that line up with the way people collaborate, when they do.”
" “Most users just want to do simple things – annotate, share, discuss. Vendors need to keep it easy. Tools have failed to adapt to the people’s collaboration habits.”
" “Why embed proprietary collaboration features in each BI tool? There should be a standard collaboration tool.”
" “There’s an entire industry of collaborative vendors. I’d rather see integration than having BI vendors reinvent the wheel.”
" “Some of the vendors are somewhat immature. Collaboration is not something you can just lay over the top of a BI tool.”
" “Generic tools always win. The collaborative BI features need to work with standard office apps in daily use and existing tools such as MS Office to increase early adoption.”
Management is to blame:
" “Collaboration improves when management makes sure there are fewer barriers/friction for sharing.”
" "In most organizations today, the CIO / CTO holds the ultimate BI power. Do we need another C-level person to make people share and imbue collaboration in the culture? Perhaps a “BIO” (BI Officer)?"
" “A Business Intelligence Officer could spend more time on obtaining insights and less on the technology than a CIO / CTO.”
" “I imagine collaborative BI rides some sort of BI maturity curve. Collaborative BI is a higher level than just trying to get insight into what’s going on in your biz.”
" “Confidentiality is a huge issue. Could initiate some collaborative workflows via social media but need privacy at some point.”
" “Collaboration needs to be differentiated between compliance-oriented discussions vs. brainstorming or other collaboration.”
The problem lies with the users:
" “Practices and policies may help some, but the adoption solution lies with the user. Collaboration requires a different mindset and corporate culture where people are comfortable with transparency.”
" “Some people try to use data and knowledge as weapons and not tools.”
My opinion? Collaborative BI is like a diamond in the rough that hasn’t yet been cut and polished, so it doesn’t shine and hasn’t reached its potential value. But the value is definitely there.
Bottom line: Businesses and governments need shared perspectives on insights derived from business intelligence. Insight built collaboratively adds value faster and achieves faster consensus and better buy-in. Most business challenges are multi-faceted and often cross-functional. Effective collaboration not only can build a deeper understanding of the problem but also can be the basis for a solution to be embraced by employees at all levels of the organization and make the solution more doable. And it also leaves behind an audit trail of sorts.
But collaboration technology doesn’t make an organization collaborative. Collaboration doesn’t work in organizations where information is power that leads to hidden agendas, internal politics and hoarding information.
In cutting and polishing the collaboration BI diamond, remember that trust and mutual respect are critical to collaboration, as is a sense of shared responsibility.
The corporate culture should emphasize or encourage collaboration enough that employees believe in the process, are not wary of being transparent and see collaborative behavior as being in their own best interests. Publicizing successes and what can be achieved through collaboration can help drive this kind of culture. But there’s nothing more important than the leaders removing collaboration barriers and also modeling collaboration in their decision making.
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.