No one would argue that business intelligence management is a critical part of success in a post-recession business climate. And few would argue that a major part of business intelligence means staying on top of what your competitors are doing, or claim that there is a substitute for monitoring industry news as part of a business intelligence management strategy.
For decades, monitoring industry news meant either assigning someone (usually in marketing, public relations, or product management) to read the trades and monitor the newswires and news channels or hiring an expensive news monitoring service to track the industry. For a while, businesses looked to Google Alerts and other online tools to help with collecting competitive data.
But then along came the iPad. Before long, iPad app development had created less expensive, more accurate options like Flipboard, Zite, Pulse, and a host of smaller, newer competitors. It’s part of a fundamental change in business intelligence management, and what CNN founder Mitch Lazar calls “the iPad economy”.
Business Intelligence Development Trends
Of course, the availability of low-cost business intelligence and research apps for the iPad is just one of the business intelligence development trends that savvy IT managers are taking advantage of. Enterprise business intelligence development has helped many companies condense multiple streams of content from a variety of sources into single channels, giving users access to important external content in one place.
The key to success in business intelligence development lies in saving time through better search and filtering, whether the goal is to monitor the World Wide Web or combine internal data streams (customer data, registration and sales data, marketing data) with external data (analyst and consultant reports, competitive data, industry news, etc.). Smart enterprise apps that let users create their own content streams based on keywords improve analysis in every business unit – without forcing (or allowing) users to rely on sources that may not be reliable.
Still, many business intelligence apps don’t deliver all the value that they could, according to analysts like Sanchit Vir Gogia of IDC. Earlier this month, Gogia told Channelworld’s State of the Mart 2013 audience that while 78% of enterprises will increase spending on business intelligence development this year, only 15.2% of managers polled by IDC thought that their investment in business intelligence development would deliver the value they wanted.
“Business intelligence projects have been around for more than 25 years, but between 60 and 65% of BI projects and programs fail to deliver on the stated requirements,” Gogia said. IDC reports have cited four key problems that must be addressed in order to deliver the business intelligence that users need:
- Improved end user involvement in planning deliverables.
- Faster delivery cycles that allow rapid deployment.
- Better data quality, with better filters, searching, and sorting capabilities.
- Defining data’s value to the enterprise, and how that value is determined.
“Not all data is equal, but when a business intelligence development project is designed, it often seems that all data sources are given equal priority. This leaves it up to the user to add additional filtering – if that option is available to them – and increases the cost, development time, and complexity of the app.”
iPad App Development Lessons for BI
Before your next business intelligence development project, take a look at some of the consumer-focused iPad app development projects that are creeping into the enterprise – regardless of how useful they really are. The secret to great iPad app development is in the simplicity and ease of use that they offer. Ask yourself if the business intelligence applications you develop or deploy within your organization can offer users:
- A limited number of ways to identify related records within data silos
- The ability to capture overlapping data attributes for common categories like customer and product data
- Normalized data that is easy to understand, and easy to extract real information from
- A way to turn raw data into actionable information – without the need for field employees to understand complex business models
If not, perhaps it’s time for your development team to consider a basic fact that’s all too easy to forget: The “customers” who will use your business intelligence app – whether they are managers, field employees, sales people, channel partners, or vendors/suppliers – don’t see the data the way that IT does. IT can often see data in neat categories, but most business users see it within a context that can be hard for IT to understand without enough input from the customer.
As one disgruntled regional sales manager told an IT manager after reviewing the new business intelligence application that had just been deployed, “Look, all I want to know is how many red widgets we have in stock, and how long it will take to deliver a large order. When I need information, I need it right now, because that’s what my customer wants – I don’t have time to take information from six places and figure it out for myself. So just give me something like Siri that answers my questions, and I’ll be happy.”
Re-inventing a complex application like Siri probably isn’t a realistic goal for most organizations, but Forrester Research recently offered a good checklist on how to measure the performance of a business intelligence app. If you are about to embark on a new business intelligence development project and already have a deployed BI solution, spend a few minutes reviewing Boris Evelson’s five questions that will help show whether or not your organization has the business intelligence it really needs.