Why enterprises should make analytics invisible

Putting data analytics into the hands of front line employees is critical to pervasive BI. But first you need to remove the fear factor.

invisible man
Credit: flickr/taymtaym

Pervasive BI. Perhaps you’ve heard the term and wondered what exactly it means, or how it pertains to you and your organization.

At its core, pervasive BI relates to the idea of creating a more inclusive approach to information use across the organization. The goal of this is to facilitate data sharing with all key stakeholders and enable data based decisions in real-time, or close to it. In a nutshell, pervasive BI relates to the idea that BI is everywhere, connected to everything and usable by everyone.

Research firm Gartner Inc. recently released its Top 10 Strategic IT Trends for 2015, and a simple read-through of what Gartner is forecasting indicates that as data volumes and demand for analytics continue to grow, we will soon find ourselves in a world where business intelligence is more than just available to everyone, it’s actually in everything.

Let’s take a closer look at some of Gartner’s trends to better understand what this means. We can, in fact, combine five of Gartner’s ten trends into one cohesive sentence that shows both how closely they’re intertwined and how well they align to suggest a future of pervasive BI: "Computing everywhere" and the "Internet of things" create a unique environment for "advanced, pervasive, invisible analytics" embedded in “context rich systems” and “smart machines.

It may take a moment to sink in, but the underlying message is an important one for today’s executives: an analytics culture is critical to staying competitive. This clearly aligns with the push to make BI and analytics pervasive in business. Analytics has traditionally been cloistered within a small circle of data analysts or power users, which limits the data’s potential. The reality is everyone in an enterprise makes decisions, and in order to improve decision-making across the board, access to BI and analytics is necessary to create insights relevant to individual roles.

Currently, however, BI adoption rates hover at around 30 percent in a typical enterprise. And unfortunately, the majority of users are still analysts who rely on complex tools. Often, the bulk of professional and operational employees that keep an enterprise going don’t have direct access to this kind of information and thus don’t have the insight needed to make informed decisions.

Changing Processes and Perceptions

There are ways to address this, however, and help better spread intelligence throughout the organization. Ensuring the quality of data is of course elemental, and an effective data integration strategy is also essential. With the rise of the Internet of Things, today’s world is more connected than ever. Data originates from numerous disparate, often non-human sources, and failure to effectively integrate those sources means that employees are left with an incomplete—and ultimately inaccurate—understanding of the data. Implementing a unified platform that brings data integration together with data integrity and BI is the foundation that sets an organization on a course toward a culture of pervasive BI across the organization.

One of the reasons for the low BI and analytics adoption rate in the enterprise is the fear factor. Employees have trepidations about working directly with data, especially because for most, interacting with data is outside their usual job duties. So how do you remove that fear and doubt in the average worker? Make the analytics invisible by embedding them in easy to use apps.

Working within apps is something most everyone is not only familiar with, but comfortable doing. This is one approach gaining popularity in the enterprise, and, quietly, making BI and analytics more pervasive. It allows organizations to build scalable, interactive, custom applications for making decisions that can be accessed on devices by hundreds of thousands of employees in any location, with no specialized training needed. The app approach truly opens up BI possibilities and helps share key content with numerous additional stakeholders. Apps also provide the ability to help front line employees at the point of making decisions.

Knowledge is power, and making business insights more accessible across the industry is the only way that companies can equip their workforce with the ability to make informed, business advancing decisions. How well companies execute on the concept of pervasive BI will ultimately separate the winners from the losers in today’s competitive landscape.

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