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Encouraging Top-Down BI Adoption in 5 Simple Steps

by | Maintaining BI

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A recent study by TDWI surveyed IT executives at 263 businesses and concluded that “company executives do not trust their internal data and analytical processes for effective business operations.” Despite 65% of survey respondents having access to self-service analytics applications, only 44%  reported being able to find the data they were looking for. Spreadsheets continue to be companies’ primary method of storing and analyzing data even though individuals using those spreadsheets have reservations regarding the data’s integrity.

Without further research, it can be hard to say what exactly is inciting such low BI adoption for these companies. Perhaps the solutions weren’t a good fit from the outset, or maybe there are integration issues compromising their effectiveness. But let’s assume that for at least a handful of those companies, there is nothing wrong with the applications themselves. Why, then, are they struggling with BI adoption?

Lack of executive buy-in is one probable cause. It can be hard for companies (especially large ones) to transition to new software without institutional support and enforcement. Because BI and BI-enabled applications rely heavily on user-submitted content, their value is inextricably linked to adoption rates. Think of any customer relationship management (CRM) application: if users aren’t keeping meticulous record of their customer interactions, the CRM’s analytics won’t be of much use to anyone. It’s a catch 22: you need good usage rates in order to improve the product’s value, but the product needs to be valuable in order for users to want to use it in the first place.

In other words, knowledge workers are unlikely to change their routines unless they clearly understand the benefit of doing so, and who better to convey that benefit than their executives?

Here’s how c-level officers can help their companies navigate the transition to a new analytics suite. BI-enabled SaaS providers can download our printer-friendly checklist version to distribute to clients as part of their onboarding package.


Step 1: State the Benefits

Before transitioning your team to a new software application, it’s a good idea to explicitly state what they can expect to get out of the change. Communicate these benefits to each department separately, taking each group’s priorities into consideration. A new analytics-enabled CRM might be of obvious value to Sales, but Marketing may need help understanding how it will impact their operations.

Step 2: Set Expectations

If transitioning to a new application means abandoning old practices, be explicit about what those old practices are. Not all employees may realize that exporting data to spreadsheets for analysis creates data integrity issues, so identifying these unacceptable processes is the first step to eliminating them from your teams’ workflows.

Step 3: Provide Training

Most applications will have documentation, instructional videos, and even on-site training sessions for clients to take advantage of, so be sure to make these available to your employees! Consider making training mandatory for certain groups, and have a plan for familiarizing new hires with the software.

Step 4: Transition Cleanly

A patchy or staggered transition to new BI software can tarnish people’s first impressions of the application because, as explained earlier, adoption and value are closely linked. Effect a smooth transition by setting a transition date and giving all stakeholders clear instructions for how to prepare. Send reminders as the date draws near. If effecting the transition means users are going to lose access to old resources, make sure there’s a grace period in which stragglers can recover any documents or data from those resources even after the official transition date.

Step 5: Reinforce the Change

Some executives might make BI adoption part of employees’ end-of-year reviews, but this isn’t the only way to reinforce a platform transition. Empowering managers to lead by example is a great first step, as is referring employees to the new application rather than to whatever resource they had used previously. Enforcing a new process might also involve making the old process less convenient, so whether that means refusing a report in spreadsheet form or requiring conversations to be logged in the new CRM application, it’s important to discourage knowledge workers from reverting to old practices.

Step 6: Perform BI Adoption Check-Ins

Applications are never perfect, and even if they were, business needs change and evolve over time. This means that it’s important to check in with application users periodically to make sure they’re getting value out of the system and have someone to address with their questions and complaints. There’s no point in enforcing a system that no longer works for your business, so keep tabs on what users are saying about the solution. If your BI application allows you to monitor user activity, keep an eye out for unusual trends suggesting UX problems. This will help you troubleshoot adoption issues as they arise and keep them from snowballing out of control.

With this process in place, companies are much more likely to navigate BI adoption successfully. Clear communication and expectation-setting are crucial, but continued reinforcement is also important if the application is to remain a sustainable solution. Share these tips with your clients to start them off on the right foot.

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