A provider of well-known BI platform likes to promote its high number of “active touches.” What’s alarming is that the vendor considers an active touch to be once-a-month use. So, here are a few questions: Is a person actively communicating if they’re only checking their email once per month? Are you considered worldly if you only check the news once per month? Similarly, are your employees “data-driven” if they’re only checking their analytics once per month? A successful implementation requires active use of data, and people should have a natural need to use it.
Your tool is too simplistic to answer complex business questions; or, it’s too complicated for people to actually use. You purchased the platform to accelerate speed-to-insight, not slow it down. However, if you find that your platform merely generates visualizations that don’t trigger meaningful action, then your analytics tool lacks sophistication. Data visualizations cannot make decisions for you—they simply provide representations of data. However, if the visualization is inherently unsophisticated, or simply restates the obvious, it’s just a pretty picture. And if the analytics tool doesn’t give you the ability to interrogate the data beyond the static (or lightly interactive) visualizations, or you need expert help to answer the question, that’s a problem. Your users require something more sophisticated if they’re going to use it. Difficult business questions require sophisticated tools.
Many analytics platforms tools are rudimentary by design in an attempt to cater to the lowest common denominator (the casual user who only lightly consumes information). Yet they alienate the users that want more than just attractive visualizations. Some platforms cater to the 5% of users who demand high-powered analytics—the data scientists among the userbase. However, this yet again alienates the majority of users because the tool is too difficult or time-consuming to learn. Analytics is a continually evolving exercise. You need to be constantly thinking about the next question and the next question after that. And the next question cannot come at a tremendous cost—it cannot be a development project that constrains decisions.
For an analytics implementation to truly work, it needs to cater to the 80% in the middle group of users. The ideal platform finds that middle ground. It provides you with a friendly UI that the average user can appreciate, but plumbs in sophisticated analytics—with simplicity—so advanced users can explore greater depths of sophistication and answer the tough business questions. The art is activating the 80%—those that need more than nothing, but less than everything.
The confidence in your insights and analysis is low. Now, more than ever, users need data to inform their decisions, and they need to be able to trust the data. Desktop-based tools allow users to build their own content entirely untethered from the organization, regardless of whether the underlying data or analytics is accurate or not. This causes downstream problems and sows distrust in the integrity of the data. No one can act on information without confidence in the people, processes, and tools. Analytic platforms should provide governance capabilities to manage data from a centrally administered repository so that analysis can be reproducible and defensible. It should provide the means to trace the origins of the data, the techniques used to examine it, and the individuals who prepared the analysis.
The Dangers of Picking the Wrong Analytics Platform
Often, data visualization platforms are purchased when “analytics” is merely a check box. The platforms may provide the ability to build and show data representations, but they seldom go deep enough. A serious analytics platform lets you and your business users ask the next big question, and the next one after that. And the questions are never simple. If the answer is obvious, they usually don’t need to be asked.
If you made a purchasing decision with analytics as an afterthought, you will see the signs with time. It could mean that your efforts won’t deliver meaningful value or, worse yet, that your efforts will utterly fail. So, if you are serious about your analytics, then get a serious analytics platform.