Ease of Use and Interface Appeal in Business Intelligence Tools
By Cindi Howson
Just as the eyes are the window to the
soul, business intelligence (BI) tools are the window to the data that
helps business users identify new opportunities and make fact-based
decisions. Despite the critical role that BI tools provide, adoption
remains low and BI tools are considered difficult to use, with largely
Assessing a BI tool’s ease of use is
difficult because it is influenced by subjective factors. However, the
importance of ease of use — rated even higher than specific tool
capabilities and analytic power — makes it a critical aspect to address
in making BI more pervasive and with bigger business impact. Each group
of potential BI users — whether power users who work with data for most
of the day, or casual users who only have a short time to glance at
information — brings their own set of experiences and expectations to a
BI tool. Customers and vendors alike need to consider these differences
so they can improve ease of use, leveraging whichever innovation is
appropriate for a particular type of application and user segment.
BI tools are rated as some of the most difficult to use relative to a
variety of technologies including Google, email, and Excel. Power users
rate BI tools as more difficult than casual users. Companies that
described their predominant BI tool as very easy to use had a much
higher BI adoption rate than those who described their BI tool as only
somewhat easy or difficult.
An appealing interface provides a
powerful first impression, particularly when trying to embrace new
users. The way a product looks and works influences how pleasant and
effective it is to continue using a particular BI tool. With BI, a
cumbersome interface and workflow competes with other ways of working,
whether gut feel decision making or asking the expert. If someone
doesn’t have to absolutely get to the data to do his or her job, an
unappealing interface can be a barrier to continued use. In considering
various interfaces within a BI platform, the authoring interface is
rated the least appealing. Dashboard interfaces rated the most
appealing, but still leave room for improvement.
In trying to
address ease of use and interface appeal, vendors have introduced a
number of innovations such as BI’s integration with Microsoft Office, in
particular Excel, Adobe Flash animation, and BI search. Of these
innovations, Microsoft Office integration is the most widely adopted.
Lackluster adoption for other innovations is mainly because customers
have not purchased the option.
Despite claims that BI tools
should be easy enough to use so that training is not required, most
people want some training, at least half a day. Even if the BI tool is
easy to use, understanding the data requires time and explanation. A
bigger issue is in the gap in the amount of training people feel they
should have and what they actually get. People who think their job
requires a day or two of formal training are generally getting that
training. However, BI experts and managers who say half a day of
training should be required are not receiving any formal training.
Read the entire study.