In this post, I will continue with my thoughts on how to increase usage of your BI-solution. The underlying assumption and how to deal with data quality and information relevance can be read here.
When you have achieved good data quality for your relevant information, you need to package your information in a good way.
The interface has to look nice. There is a reason car manufacturers spend billions to make their cars look great. Good design sell in the real world and the same is true for your BI-solution. You need to make the CEO proud of it so he/she will show it on the next meeting, creating a buzz around it.
It might sound silly but my experience is that employees will be much more likely to use and talk about a great looking user interface than a not so nice one. Also, the departments that have not yet created a great looking interface will soon be knocking on your door once they have seen what the others have access to.
Ease of use versus advanced functionality. You want the solution to be easy to use for the beginner but still be advanced enough to keep the more advanced users to come back and learn more. Remember that the users don’t NEED to use the solution at all. It is good if they do, but their work does not depend on it, so if they feel it is too hard to find, open or understand it, they might just leave it and ask someone else for the figures they were looking for.
So, it is important that the beginner can get something useful from the solution the first time he/she uses it. A simple dashboard, a bar chart or a semi static table might achieve this.
Ideally, more advanced features should be available in the same solution, so that each user can feel in control but still be aware that just around the corner, there is more information. If possible you should aim for creating a seamless solution where the users barely notice they are moving on to more advanced features. This way, users can work and develop their understanding in their own pace while more advanced users, that use the exact same solution, can help them when needed.
Just as a salesperson that wants customers to come back for more, you need to keep your users happy and give them good service and support.
Again, Business Intelligence cannot be treated the same way as an ERP system, because users will not be forced to use it every day. When you launch an ERP system you might have a big roll-out activity where all users learn the system and then they are more or less using the ERP system every day. With BI, user adaption comes gradually over time. User training is still important but should be combined with ad hoc training and support.
Not many users will sit down one day and decide that “today, I will learn everything about our BI-solution”. Well, some will do that but most will not. Instead, they will check out the BI-solution when they have some extra time or when they really need an important figure. That can be a year after the initial training so they will need help from someone else. In this crucial moment when a user really show interest and need help, you have to find a way to give them that. If that is by having a really strong network of super users or providing the help from a BICC or some other organizational unit does not matter, as long as support is easy to get.
I would not recommend relying solely on the common service desk for this support, unless you make sure that the service desk is skilled enough to both explain the technology, the figures, what they mean, where they come from and so on.
If you manage to give your new users fast and first class support that first time they really need to find an important figure, you probably have a new frequent user that will tell everyone else how awesome the BI-solution is. Not to mention how thrilled they will be by your great support function.
Now, I am aware this sounds like you need to hire 10 extra people just to take care of user support, but that would be to exaggerate it. However, make sure to make an extra effort to give users good service and user support, at least until the number of users have increased and you have developed a strong network of super users.
Now, those are my key points to achieve a high user adaption. There are of course other issues to think about, but the key is to understand that as the users are not forced to use your BI-solution, you need to sell it to them by delivering what they need in a way they understand and like.