By the turn of the 20th century, technology had taken enough leaps to address issues of complexity as well as speed. This was further leveraged with the introduction of cloud-based systems which brought simplicity and efficiency to business processes. Moving on, the real-time processing of events into data warehouses meant that companies could base their decisions on the latest data available. But with time and the use of the internet, the surge in data generated by these applications gave rise to a data-driven decision making, termed ‘Business Intelligence’ (BI). Business corporations started leveraging business intelligence tools for its data-driven decision making. Soon, business managers could take decisions based on historical data and the speedy processing capabilities of these applications.
Analyzing sales in geographical regions compared with the campaigns that ran along with annual profit comparisons across all the products were some of the abilities that these applications could perform.
The term ‘Business Intelligence’ has become common in boardroom discussions lately, but it actually dates back to the 1860s. It was Howard Dresner who first proposed it in 1989 as an umbrella phrase for applying data analysis techniques to support business decision-making processes. Since then, business intelligence has grown strong in terms of data processing and data analysis. Companies started to measure their performance by comparing the growth of last year to this year or by establishing the cost of acquiring new customers.
Listed below are a few KPIs one should consider while choosing a business intelligence application.
- Faster Action in Discovery: Delays in data analytics can be a consequence of relying on reporting teams. Users, however, look forward to finding solutions to their problems in real time. BI applications should be enabled to discover answers faster than any other sources. A tailored, flexible, and ready solution can be used instead with slight modifications to save time, eliminate duplication, and increase accessibility of content as required.
- Easy Interaction with Data Reports: Basic users and power users warrant separate guidelines. Basic users, on one hand, can interact with reports by using nominal filters and access guided analytics or emphasize data insights. Power users, however, should be able to create, modify, and manipulate new business logic or calculation by using advanced tool features.
- Threat Control: Prevention of security breaches and privacy compliance processes must be in place within a BI tool. Security administration has to be delegated to a particular group of users with each department, along with an auditing trail to track the usage of the content.
- User Interface: It is imperative that the application carries a user-friendly interface which also ticks all the boxes in terms of requirements. Mobile applications are expected to offer responsive touch interfaces. All the features of the BI must support the corporate environment.
- Scalability: The platform must scale up and deliver optimal performance to match the growth of the data volume and number of users. Large enterprises must consider the scale-out option of a self-service BI.
But wait, achieving the KPIs are also important, aren’t they?
The bottom line is that business decisions are still taken by the key stakeholders or as we call them ‘users’, it is important that the business intelligence application is user-centric. One of the biggest KPI that any business intelligence application can have is to help it take better decisions. In order for a BI application to achieve it, all it needs is a perfect segue to UX.
What is UX?
UX, or User Experience, is the discipline that governs how every BI project is built. It’s a methodology and a framework for discovering users’ needs and then crafting BI solutions which meet those needs. UX informs the essential elements of UI and data visualization. Where UI lies outside UX, it pertains to discretionary visual elements, such as color schemes and font choices, among others. The data visualization lives completely inside the UI and is a selection of charts, placed in a logical order called for in a Use Case, Journey Map, or Persona – all derived from the upfront UX research work.
How UX will help BI
User research focuses on understanding user behaviors, needs, and motivations through observation techniques and task analysis. User research is an important aspect when it comes to business intelligence applications, since users tend to vary.
User research involves conducting interviews of the CEO, chief analyst, and all the stakeholders of the BI application to understand their goals. Listed below are the key elements of user research –
- Personal Interviews – Personal interviews with the stakeholders help in establishing the goals of any BI application. They are a fast and easy way to understand the reactions and expectations of the users. These interviews help in efficiently identifying the information that will help the decision maker to arrive at the conclusion faster.
- Data Discovery – Any BI application’ s main role is to analyze data and present it in a crisp manner. Data discovery helps in understanding the pattern in which the data can be represented consistently.
- Use cases – Use cases describe a way in which a system is used, but one of the big benefits of use case modeling is that it also describes all of the things that might go wrong. Identifying exceptions to a successful scenario early in the design saves a lot of time by finding subtle requirements. Covering all the use cases is important in any application, but BI applications particularly, need special care for the user to dive in data as deep as possible.
- Journey Mapping – Journey maps are a description of the users’ experience or their subjective reactions or feelings when using a product or service. Journey mapping reveals useful insights on the target users’ feelings, ideas and behavior at a particular time. These details aid designers define the evolution process and find users’ pain points. In the long term, journey mapping helps designers establish confidence-based relationships with users based on their perspectives.
- Business Objective – Clear objectives provide a well-understood definition to owners and employees. Measurable objectives ensure that business owners can review and confirm that they were achieved in the best way possible. UX research helps in ensuring that the business objectives are kept in mind while designing any BI application.
In today’s enterprise world, satisfying user needs has become paramount and business intelligence applications are no exceptions. A satisfied user is a reward to any organization, and including UX in any project can get us there.