Collaborative BI Enhances Customer Responsiveness

A new report from AberdeenGroup shows the key role collaboration plays in successful business intelligence

BI is instrumental in providing faster, better-informed, and more accurate decision making, but if you want to supercharge the benefits from BI, a new study suggests that collaboration is key.

In its latest report, Collaborative Business Intelligence: Three Steps Toward Superior Customer Responsiveness, AberdeenGroup's Michael Lock surveyed 227 end-user organizations worldwide and determined the characteristics of Best-in-Class companies when it comes to collaboration and BI. A collaborative organization fosters open lines of communication between key stakeholders across organization functions as well as externally. BI comes into play, for example, when users want to understand how different key performance indicators map to the company's common goals.

He found that the most successful companies (the top 20 percent of enterprises are categorized as Best-in-Class) were distinguished by 44 percent improvement in customer responsiveness (the response time to customer service requests), a 42 percent improvement in employee productivity (measured as a reduction in the time spent searching for information), and a 30% improvement in business process efficiency over other enterprises (measured as a reduction in the cycle times of key business processes).

In addition, Best-in-Class companies are 3.8 times more likely than the bottom 30 percent of performers (so-called "Laggards") to find and reuse reports, and 80 percent more likely than "Industry Average" companies (the middle 50 percent) to use performance reporting dashboards. They are also more than twice as likely as all other enterprises to measure the use and activity of collaborative tools.

AberdeenGroup notes that "the application of BI has expanded in scope and has become relevant to more front line workers in the organization" -- in other words, what TDWI labels as pervasive BI. The report continues, "The expansion has paved the way for a new collaborative style of analytics that fosters a mutual and simultaneous improvement in BI utilization and business visibility. … As users collaborate on the analysis of critical business metrics and showcase the potential of BI, other non-technical users follow suit, ultimately leading to a much clearer picture of how the business is performing." The author points out that over the past year, Best-in-Class companies had a 40 percent increase in the number of employees with access to "BI/analytical capability."

Driving the move to collaboration can be simply stated: better decisions faster. Just as market volatility pushes strategic initiatives, improved decision making is driving collaborative initiatives. Organizations need relevant, timely information; 83 percent of Best-in-Class companies report that actionable information is refreshed at least daily compared to 55 percent of all other companies. This is paying off: two-thirds (67 percent) of Best-in-Class companies say that can make a decision based on this information within a day; only 41 percent of other companies can do so.

How did they get there? Best-in-Class companies are more likely to establish rules and controls on data access for collaborative participants (helping promote more efficient use of available data)and establish an "information culture" that promotes collaboration. They use performance reporting dashboards and company portals to share what they've learned, and are twice as likely as Laggards "to have the ability to automatically trigger delivery of information to the relevant collaborators." Furthermore, they are more than twice as likely as all other companies to be able "to access and use analytical tools simultaneously (in real time) with other users."

Company culture is also one reason for the success of Best-in-Class firms. For example, they are 65 percent more likely than all other organizations to use cross-functional teams tasked with promoting greater collaboration.

Lock warns that organizations can't jump on the collaboration bandwagon and expect immediate results. "Collaboration is not something that can be implemented and leveraged overnight." His research shows that the most successful companies have taken a long-term approach to cultivating collaborative methodologies. In fact, 77 percent of Best-in-Class companies have been at it for more than 2 years compared with 44 percent of Laggards.

About the Author

James E. Powell is the former editorial director of Enterprise Strategies (esj.com).