Driving User Adoption: How to Get the Most out of Your BI Investment

Most companies that invest in Business Intelligence technologies do so with high expectations of better decisions, more efficient processes and decreased cost. Others expect increased insight into spending, competition, and customer behavior or employee performance. The simple fact is that many BI implementations do not deliver on their expected value.

The real question is, why does this occur? As consultants we have the benefit of working with customers in situations where things are going well and the promise is being delivered. In other situations where that isn’t the case, our assistance is often requested to figure out why.

Business value is driven by providing the right information, to the right people at the right time. One often overlooked factor is whether the “right” people are taking advantage of the resources that have been provided. This brings us to the topic of user adoption.

In our experience there are some best practices that lead to increased user adoption. User adoption is driven by a number of facets. The value and timeliness of the business information are critical, as well as some other less obvious factors:

Data Quality – get the data right. Users will often not come back a second time if you deliver inaccurate or ambiguous information.

Marketing – Often times business user are not aware of the power and value of the BI investment. It is critical to communicate on a regular basis. A formal communication strategy for initial as well as add on roll outs is very important, and recommended in all but the smallest organization.

Training – Training is a tricky thing to time properly. Train too soon and the users are not engaged, and forget what they learn. Train too late and they will become frustrated with their lack of knowledge, potentially to the point of not wanting to use the technology, and will often go back to their old way of obtaining information (often via excel spreadsheets). We recommend providing formal training 1-2 weeks after roll out.

Super/Power User Programs– Hold regular meetings, no less frequently than once a quarter. Encourage your user base to share with each other. The practicality and format (web meeting vs in person) will be driven by the size and geographic factors at your company. We recommend at least one in person meeting per year. You will be very surprised by what you learn in these meetings.

The bottom line is that communication, education, and engagement are critical success factors in any BI implementation. Obviously delivering accurate ,timely, and relevant info is also important, but that alone is not enough. We find in our business and within our clients, our customers are very often our best evangelists. Take advantage of this and you will find success with your projects, and success with one project often leads to follow up projects. A Business Intelligence program that is delivering value to your business is an incredibly important business asset, especially in today’s trying times.