High IQ (interactive quotient) is one of the most important features for Business Intelligence software users

Does Your Business Intelligence Software Suffer From Low IQ?A recent benchmark study conducted by Ventana Research revealed the need for smarter business intelligence tools designed specifically to address the needs of business users. 63% of study participants rated usability as the most important consideration for evaluation of BI software, well ahead of functionality (49%), manageability (47%), or even reliability (46%).

The results of the study reflect the frustration of many business users who find the advanced capabilities of BI software designed for analysts too cumbersome for their needs. Business users of BI placed greater importance on interactive and collaborative features that help them identify and take action on the most important information for their area of business without requiring IT or analyst involvement.

Top Usability Features on the Business User’s Wish List

1. Customizable Mobile Alerts

Whether they are on the road or simply immersed in the daily demands of business, users want BI systems that will alert them to a potential problem as soon as it is appears.

Among the most highly-valued features demanded by business users is the ability to quickly review their most important KPIs and set customized thresholds. Whenever the value of a key metric moves outside a specified range, BI users want to be notified by an alert sent via email or directly to their mobile device.

2. Contextualized Analytics

If you’ve ever been baffled by an operating manual written exclusively in pictograms you will understand the business user’s desire for text explanations in straight-forward language that can provide a context for dashboard graphics.

BI business users want text in addition to graphics so they can absorb the information as easily as they read a newspaper or scan a website. By capitalizing on the brain’s ability to process both language and visuals, next-generation BI software can greatly increase usability with text explanations that can be customized to the specific variables of a user’s business as well as their preferred language.

3. Collaborations Tools for Annotating and Sharing

Business users need an integrated solution for annotating and collaborating on the results of their analysis. I have personally spent countless hours transferring the results of advanced analytics to a format that is more congenial to sharing (usually Microsoft PowerPoint.)

Business users need to share analytics in a form that allows them to annotate key points about a chart or graph and easily distribute it to colleagues or clients. As social business becomes increasing the norm, BI software with integrated social features will make current practices obsolete. It will no longer be necessary to repeat a presentation many times over in order to socialize analyses across a large organization.

Why Are These Features Not Available In All Business Intelligence Software?

While many of these features are available in the best of Business Intelligence software, it begs the question: why are they not standard in all BI applications? Mark Smith, CEO and Chief Research Officer for Ventana Research has this to say:

For years, BI software providers have stated there was no demand for capabilities like collaborative and mobile to make things easier for business users, but my analysis indicates this was because they were getting feedback only from IT organizations and IT industry analysts who do not research or understand the way business professionals operate and how they want to become smarter in how they communicate and collaborate, including via mobile technology.

It’s time to change that pattern by recognizing how business users consume and share the results of analysis. By incorporating the best of mobile and social business practices, BI for business users is evolving to meet the demand for enhanced usability.

Additional Resources:

Learn how SAP Business Objects is leading the way with Business Intelligence software designed to meet the top usability requirements of business users.


Are you a business user with a pet peeve about Business Intelligence software? What improvements would you like to see in the next generation of BI software?