Monday, March 16, 2009

Icing the BI Cake with User Experience

The true power of BI is the ability to present actionable information to decision makers.  All the data quality governance, ETL excellence, and dimensional analysis will mean nothing if the business can't intuitively interact with the information through their BI tools.  You must ice the cake with an exceptional User Experience to drive the most value from your BI investments.


A focus on User Experience is key to your BI program's success for the following reasons:

  • Enables a faster "mean time to answer".  Reducing the number of clicks and searches makes your applications more satisfying and efficient to use.
  • Consistency.  Once a user understands how to read one report or dashboard, they can apply the same methodology across all BI applications.
  • Expose correlations.  Simply combining data on a visualization like a chart or a scatter plot can immediately show a correlation between 2 measures that are not as readily apparent as pure numbers.
  • Guide your user through tried and tested analysis processes to expose the knowledge of power users to the larger user base.
  • Simplify the experience of finding information by improving navigation structures.  Ensure your search capabilities are optimized to return the most relevant results.

In order to drive the most value from your user's experience you need to have a consistent approach across all the user touch points in your environment.  My recommendation is to designate someone to be accountable for User Experience across the board.  Depending on the size of your BI program this may be part of someone's role, a full person, or a small team.  Only with a centre of excellence can you drive consistent standards across all groups creating end user content.  This team would also serve as a consultant to projects to ensure that the reporting and visualizations are designed to be intuitive and useful.

You can have all the wonderful architecture and data quality you want, but without an effective User Experience your clients will not see the value of all your hard work and will be less likely to adopt your BI environment.  First impressions only happen once.

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