The integration of Web 2.0 and social media style features into Business Intelligence (BI) applications – and other corporate technologies and processes – has been an incessant talking point during 2011.
The ability of ‘Social BI’ to deliver superior return on investment (ROI) for reporting and analytics, by facilitating better and faster collaborative decision-making, has seen many vendors scrambling to incorporate collaborative functionality into their existing offerings.
What the analysts say
There is no doubt that collaborative technologies are beginning to gain significant momentum in the enterprise, with Gartner identifying the impact of social media as one of four broad trends that will change IT, and the economy, in the next 10 years. A recent Gartner report also predicts that Social BI adoption will accelerate greatly over the next 18 months, accounting for around 15 percent of all BI deployment by 2013.
Other than the obvious financial incentives, research has identified changing workplace culture as a driving force behind this collaborative craze. A recent joint Unisys and IDC study has found that with younger information workers entering the workplace for the first time, the way in which corporate interaction takes place will change.
The study expects that, in corporations with more than 500 employees, the number of information workers using social networking platforms will almost double between 2009 and 2014. The way people are able, and expect, to interact and share information, both socially and in the workplace, is in a transitional state.
But most importantly, independent industry analysts have also unanimously pointed to the ability of collaborative decision-making, facilitated by Social BI, to enable better understanding of data by directly linking discussion to reports and visualizations.
In a recent interview with eCRM Guide, Forrester Research senior analyst, James Kobielus, said that Social BI enabled decision-makers from a range of departments – sales, marketing, pricing and promotions – to utilize the information gleaned from data analysis more effectively, and move from discussion to action, in significantly reduced timeliness.
Feedback on Yellowfin’s social and collaborative capabilities: Let the market do the talking
Improving information collaboration, and providing a crucial bridge between insight and action, sounds alluring. However, integrating collaborative capabilities into a BI application is a difficult task. The objective is to create an intuitive environment, for sharing and discussing reports and data analysis, which encourages widespread and prolonged use. Users, of all technical abilities, must be able to derive immediate value from such collaborative modules. If these attempts at information networking are met with scepticism and viewed as a gimmick, user drop-off will quickly follow.
At Yellowfin, we truly believe that Yellowfin’s collaborative features and functionality form a clear competitive differentiator, and that Social and Collaborative BI will continue to grow in stature, as the consumerization of BI intensifies.
But who cares what we think – independent opinion is what counts right?
When Yellowfin’s unique social and collaborative components hit the market with the release of Yellowfin 5.1 in November 2010, they received strong endorsement from BI industry veteran, Ian Nicholson.
“When I saw Social BI mentioned in the sales blurb, I thought it sounded like a gimmick. Now having seen it, I think it’s genius. Yellowfin should patent it quickly before the big players in the BI space jump all over it.”
As mentioned, maintaining a high level of usability is crucial to not only BI adoption, but also the adoption of collaborative functionality within a BI solution. In a recent post on analytics forum, SmartData Collective, president and founder of independent analyst firm, WiseAnalytics, comments that Yellowfin offers leading “collaborative functionality while maintaining a high level of ease of use.”
And when Yellowfin CEO, Glen Rabie, presented Yellowfin’s BI solution to the renowned Boulder BI Brain Trust (BBBT) last month, BBBT host and founder of Intelligence Solutions, Claudia Imhoff (Ph.D), expressed admiration for Yellowfin’s collaborative capabilities:
“I find [Yellowfin’s collaborative features] remarkable, I think Yellowfin’s one of the first tools to actually record a decision being made.
“I think that ability to converse easily through Yellowfin is what makes it so bright, so good for decision-making, people can then understand more than just a number.”
The BBBT is a gathering of leading BI analysts and experts, who participate in regular briefings with ‘interesting and innovative BI vendors’.
Boris Evelson of Forrester Research: ‘BI Vendors Have To Eat Their Own Dog Food’
But that’s really still not good enough. If you truly believe in the validity and merit of something, anything, than you should practice what you preach.
In a recent blog post – BI Vendors Have To Eat Their Own Dog Food – Evelson asks if you would “trust a car salesman who’s not driving the type of car he’s trying to sell you?” He then applies this analogy to BI vendors, suggesting that when searching for a BI solution, companies should ask them if they use their own BI tool to run their business. He relates this point to BI by asking: “How can a vendor convince you to buy its solutions if it hasn’t convinced its own people?” We couldn’t agree more.
At Yellowfin, we use our BI solution to monitor, measure and manage a range of business operations. When our web-traffic dipped in April this year, we were immediately alerted to the change, and embedded the appropriate reports into Yellowfin’s discussion forum to ascertain the underlying culprit. Our conversation rapidly progressed, combining internal reports, external content, and insights from multiple people. The result? The fall in our reports was linked to Google’s substantial algorithm change – the now infamous “Farmer” or “Panda” update. Problem solved. Incidentally, post Panda – Google’s attempt to reward quality web content – has delivered traffic of markedly better quality to www.yellowfinbi.com
Conclusion? Yum, Yum, Yum
So, we’re happy to consume what we produce; thanks Boris. But we’d like to think that we’re manufacturing something a little more palatable than dog food.