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Users look to offer BI access to customers, partners - WHY?

I saw this article in Computerworld - Users look to offer BI access to customers, partners - and the title made me ask "Why?". Now I don't want to seem like I am criticizing the products or companies described - I'm not - but I do think that many organizations assume that offering BI to more people, employees or customers or partners, is inherently a good and useful thing and I think that assertion bears some consideration.

So, do your customers want business intelligence?

  • Well, perhaps. A customer getting reports on how their staff are using a travel service is good, customers being able to configure the booking engine and approval process to match their needs is better. If the only way they can respond to what they find out is to implement an internal manual process or make a request to your IT department (which is, of course, backlogged) then that's not very helpful.
  • Customers also probably want to customize their interaction with you and have you learn their preferences.
  • They will probably appreciate you predicting their needs and taking action to address them in advance.
  • They increasingly want to "self-serve" and will appreciate systems that help them do so effectively.
  • They want, in other words, to have a say in how you make decisions about your interactions with them.

So, do your suppliers want business intelligence?

  • Giving your supplier visibility into sales of their product is certainly useful but why not use analytics to predict outages and rules to auto-alert them?
  • Why not allow them some control over the pricing rules your website uses?
  • Why not automate the re-order process based on your rules and theirs?
  • They want to be part of the decisions you make about stocking, re-ordering, supplying and promoting not just know what your decisions were.

So, do your business managers want business intelligence?

  • Having managers see how well they are doing is great,  but why not give them some control over pricing rules too so they can apply local knowledge (like graduation week for the local university)? You'd better make sure the demand-based pricing engine is consistent across the folks at the desk, the folks in the call center and the website too.
  • Using visualization and geographic data to show managers how things are working and how well matched sales territories are to business is great. But why not use rules and analytics to tell managers where there are problems or to identify the sales people who are performing outside the norm given their territory?
  • Why not give your business managers the power to apply their know-how to the decisions you take as a corporation?

BI can help your customers, suppliers and business users understand your business better and perhaps identify ways that it can be improved. Unless the decisions you make have been automated in a way that brings them into the process of changing those decisions, their ability to drive your business will be limited. EDM is about applying some of these same principles to automation of decisions so that when you get new intelligence about your business you can actually do something about it.

A final word from the article:

Dan Vesset, an analyst at Framingham, Mass.-based market research company IDC, said operational BI -- embedding BI in the business processes used by front-line workers -- is becoming more common as companies seek to give users better tools to make decisions. However, he and users noted that companies must pay closer attention to the user interface for these applications. A common rule of thumb is that training for business users can't exceed two hours, he said

So think hard if you really want your business users to be able to use a report or if you would rather invest that two hours in helping them understand how to drive the business.

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