Making Collaborative BI Happen

Extracted 14SEP2011 from

Good tools for collaboration are not enough by themselves. If people aren’t open to the give-and-take of collaboration, or the institutional culture does not foster it, the best tools in the world won’t create it. Yet bad tools can keep collaboration from happening even if the people involved want to collaborate.

Good tools invite interplay, and avoid imposing artificial barriers... recognizing that individuals have a wide range of cognitive styles, influencing how they can most effectively present or absorb information... Analysts see one picture, sales data that can be visualized in various ways, by city, product, or other variables. These can be handily displayed as graphics, and may show striking patterns.

Salespeople experience this data in an entirely different way. Perhaps not as “a picture” at all, but a series of narratives – individual encounters with customers. Some encounters fall through; others break through and end with a sale. These narratives don’t lend themselves to bar graphs. Word clouds might be more helpful, or perhaps thumbnail descriptions of successful and unsuccessful sales encounters...

In this hypothetical example, the analysts and salespeople belong, in a way, to two different cultures. Bringing them together is arguably a form of workplace diversity. Successful collaboration happens when diverse people bring their very different descriptions of the sales environment together into one conversation...

To succeed at collaborative BI you need an adaptable toolkit, one that can produce charts and word clouds – and make them easy to work with, talk over, and save for reference. A good collaborative BI suite is a facilitator, not a specialist.