Brian Mort (Europe) - Agile Business Intelligence

The demand for information from employees is great, and technology has moved in the direction of transparency. However, Brian Mort, VP at Acuate, examines why it is still difficult for employees to get information on their own employers.

These days, if you want a quick answer to almost anything, all you have to do is Google it. Unless, of course, you're at work and want to find out something about your own company, says Brian Mort at Actuate

Until recently, IT innovation happened first in the workplace before eventually moving out into the world at large. From the introduction of PCs, to email and the Internet, take-up spread to the home. Today, the reverse is true: consumers are so far ahead in their use of technology, that they are becoming increasingly frustrated at how slow and cumbersome everything is when they get to work.

While Baby Boomers had no choice but to accept the business applications they were given, Millennials expect them to behave as intuitively as Facebook or Google and also be available on their mobile or tablet device. What's more, the more material users can uncover at the click of a mouse, the more of it they crave. Their expectations for content on tap are great; this in turn creates a sense of entitlement to instant answers. Yet when it comes to internal decision-supporting information in many companies today, it's often easier for users to find out what's happening at a competitor organisation than it is to get an update on how their own business is doing.


A world apart

Even where companies recognise the value of giving users more control over the information they need, they are restricted technologically.

Flip back to the consumer world, and users have a plethora of free and easy-to-use tools at their disposal which allow them to filter and find the content they need. Customisable portals like iGoogle and My Yahoo! allow them to hone and be selective about the content they follow, so that finding information and resources requires reduced effort over time. The more sophisticated websites tailor this content automatically for the user, using patterns and preferences identified in the user's search history to suggest related resources.

To be competitive, organisations must find a way to extend a similar experience to their employees - even to their customers and suppliers. Content self-service is a hugely valuable proposition, not only in empowering users to satisfy their own needs promptly (and potentially out of hours), boosting their satisfaction and productivity, but also in reducing the internal support burden which is created when users have to rely on someone else to find and deliver information to them.


Freedom to be creative

By putting data in users' hands, organisations are able to give them more control over what they do with it. Colourful, interactive dashboard features, with plenty of scope for customisation, allow individuals to ‘slice and dice' information in a way that is meaningful to them and relevant to the task in hand. Such features are very powerful in their use with customers, too.

In the financial services sector, for example, brokers or client account managers are able to create personalised ‘brochures' for each customer - strengthening customer relationships and creating new sales opportunities.

In the retail industry, meanwhile, marketing and advertising teams crave more information to enable them to personalise and target advertising at a micro-level. One of the reason advertisers love social web sites like Facebook is because of the rich analytics and customer data they receive.

Market analyst firm Forrester notes that business intelligence requirements and technology advances are now changing ‘way too fast for IT and traditional technology to keep up' (Agile BI Out Of The Box, April 2010). No wonder industry observers concur that the future of business intelligence will be founded in ‘agility'. Now that the technologies exist to accelerate the process of catch-up, organisations hoping to get ahead really shouldn't wait any longer before reviewing the way they serve up information.

By Brian Mort, VP Intl Operations, Actuate