BI Teams Need to Take a Page from Apple's Book

BI teams need to focus on what business users want most.

By Sachin Sinha, Director of Business Intelligence and Analytics, ThrivOn

Earlier this year, when the iPad2 was released, my wife told me that she was going to upgrade from her first generation iPad. Her actions stood in stark contrast to just a few years ago, in the pre-iPhone world, when I had tried convincing her several times to make the switch to a smartphone. She wouldn't budge. Suddenly, she's become an early adopter, influenced by Apple products. The unexpected transformation of my wife's attitude toward new technology got me thinking.

In the world-before-iPhone, I had always tried to convince her to use a smartphone by touting its superior specs; in this new world, Apple no longer competes on specs and features. Apple's isn't a debate about displays, memory, or wireless options -- it's a debate about the quality of experience.

In this new world, the experience of the product is singularly significant.

It's not the RAM or CPU speed, screen resolution, or number of ports that dictates whether a product is valuable. A product's value is determined purely on the basis of the user's experience. My wife was seduced by the simplicity and ease of using Apple's devices. She predicted that her experience of the iPad 2 would be as genial as that of the original iPad.

Teams implementing business intelligence and data warehousing solutions need to take Apple's approach when working with customers. Frequently, an enterprise's customers aren't concerned with the product's specs. Interested in a rich experience with their data, these customers don't care about modeling constructs, be it star or snowflake. They don't care about how many tables there are, or what kind of ER diagram has been created. What they are interested in is an easy-to-use interface that lends insight into how their business operates.

I'm far from suggesting that these things aren't important. They are a critical part of the overall solution. Apple's seamless hardware software integration pays painstaking attention to these details, and so must BI teams. However, this attention is only a means to an end; mainly, the user's rich experience of the product and the product's ease of use.

BI teams need to maintain a focus on what business users want: rich experience with the data in the form of apps and dashboards, adherence to their requirements, and ease of use when playing with the data for analysis.

Apple won my wife's business by focusing on her key requirements for a smart device. If the goal is winning business customers as a permanent audience, BI teams are obliged to make those key requirements a priority.

Sachin Sinha is director of business intelligence and analytics at ThrivOn. For over a decade, Mr. Sinha has designed, architected, and delivered data integration, data warehousing, analytics, and business intelligence solutions. Specializing in information management, Mr Sinha's domestic and international consulting portfolio includes a broad array of organizations in the financial services, insurance, health care, pharmaceutical, and energy industries. You can contact the author at

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