Nobby Akiha (North America) - Why is it that the modern office is still so behind?

Go back 15 years and IT innovation happened first in the workplace before eventually moving out into the world at large. Today, the reverse is true: consumers have advanced their use of technology, to the point that they are becoming increasingly frustrated at how slow and cumbersome everything is in their work environment.
The inherent danger with this is that users are now so knowledgeable about IT, that they are beginning to find their own solutions. If they need information, they look to the Internet. If they need a fancy way of presenting something, they download a free tool. If they need to find someone quickly, they use Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. If they need an expert, they might leave a comment on a subject-specific message board.

Intelligent business?

Yet, when it comes to internal decision-supporting information, the experience isn’t remotely comparable, leaving team leaders, department heads and regional managers thwarted in their attempts to develop timely strategies and plan ahead.  The situation is so perverse that it’s often easier for users to find out what’s happening at a competitor organization than it is to get an update on how their own company is doing.
Even where (culturally) companies recognize the value of giving users more control over the information they need, they are restricted technologically from making this happen. Data integration, consolidation and presentation isn’t happening naturally enough. Either it relies too heavily on the intervention of the IT department, or requires a lot of manual effort at a departmental level.

Flip back to the consumer world, and users are offered a plethora of free and easy-to-use tools which allow them to filter and find content they need. More sophisticated websites - iGoogle and My Yahoo!, tailor this content automatically for the user, using patterns and preferences identified in the user’s search history to suggest or serve up related resources.

Information self-service

Organizations that don’t want to hold back their employees, or indeed the business, must find a way to extend a similar experience to their employees. Content self-service is a hugely valuable proposition, not only in empowering users to satisfy their own needs promptly, 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.

Deploying IT resources via a centralized, cloud-based infrastructure makes all of these very easy, allowing organizations to recreate an intuitive web-based experience for users. The added advantage of this approach is that remote and mobile users and external third parties, can be given controlled access too, which is hugely empowering for a business.

Modern open source development environments and Web 2.0 tools make deploying intuitive, web-based collaboration platforms with visually-rich presentation features easier than ever, too.

Personalized portals

By putting data in users’ hands, organizations are able to give them more control over what they do with it. Colorful, interactive dashboard features, with plenty of scope for customization, allow individuals to ‘slice and dice’ information in a way that is meaningful to them. This improves accuracy, too, by reducing the scope for misinterpretation that can arise when users are poring over spreadsheets with endless columns of figures.

Such tools can prove very powerful in their use with customers, too. In the financial services sector, they present an opportunity for brokers or client account managers to create custom dashboards. Not only could this improve customer relationships, by adding value and building trust, it could help highlight gaps in the customer’s account, insurance or investment portfolio, creating new sales opportunities.

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). “The sheer number of BI components…and a tight dependency between them results in significant effort to make even a simple change,” the report’s author notes.

No wonder industry observers concur that the future of business intelligence will be founded in agility, without recourse to the IT department. By current estimates, the workplace is about 15 years behind the consumer world when it comes to the user experience. Now that the technologies exist to accelerate the process of catch-up, organizations hoping to get ahead really shouldn’t wait any longer before initiating the revamp.

by Nobby Akiha, svp of marketing at Actuate


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