Trends: Companies Pushing BI Data to More Workers

Companies are spending more to support line-of-business workers with data than on projects for strategic decision makers (read, executives). Such actions are intended to help organizations streamline costs and save money.

Forget executive dashboards. A growing trend in many organizations is the delivery of operational information to line-of-business (LOB) workers, according to analyst firm Ventana Group. In fact, says Ventana Group analyst Eric Rooge, companies are spending more money on technology initiatives designed to support LOB workers than they are for strategic decision making.

LOB investments can have maximal impact, Rooge writes, because they’re typically supporting thousands rather than hundreds of users. The upshot, he argues, is that technology investments of this kind can help LOB workers optimize thousands of daily decisions, which can—voila!—help organizations streamline costs and save money.

Among other potential LOB deployment strategies, Rooge cites fraud detection and prevention, customer call center, and personal performance tracking applications, which he says can be designed to deliver event alerts, along with presentation of alternative resolutions. Another benefit of LOB applications is that they can provide feedback on a user’s performance against organizational and personal goals, thereby increasing worker motivation.

At the same time, Rooge cautions, it’s not simply enough to expose LOB workers to transactional details and aggregated summary data. Instead, organizations need to understand the unique needs of these workers, as they are different from those of strategic decision makers. Rooge suggests a process that he calls “needs categorization,” which results in clearly defined benefits and measurable design objectives. “Bottom-up approaches such as needs categorization must also be complemented with a strategic or top-down perspective,” he writes. “Understanding strategic goals and initiatives within an organization will be key to designing in the right areas of flexibility for an application.”

Rooge stresses that applications for LOB workers have different user-interface and design considerations as well. “These applications must provide more direction and fewer choices. User interfaces must be simplified and enable users to acquaint and train by themselves,” he writes.

In the end, no single vendor dominates the market for these solutions and Rooge stresses that architectural approaches and the technologies used to support them can vary greatly. For example, he notes, a host of players from the BI, business activity monitoring (BAM), enterprise application integration (EAI), enterprise information integration (EII), and ETL markets compete in this space. There’s good reason for this, however: Organizations must integrate multiple data sources, application components, and architectures—along with their existing support infrastructures—to enable these LOB applications.

“Optimal choices for the best technology approaches to deliver information for business operations are not always clear, but emerging vendors, products, and technologies will likely provide new unexpected benefits,” he predicts.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.