Never Underestimate The Importance Of BI User Training

Timo Elliott


When I present on the topic of business intelligence failure, one theme that often comes up is inadequate user training. What’s fascinating to me is that everybody usually agrees, slightly wistfully, that there hasn’t been enough training done, often citing time pressures or budget constraints. But most seem to shrug their shoulders and say “that’s just how it is” – or, more fairly, have concluded there are more important problems to deal with.

I disagree. I think that the appropriate BI training is some of the lowest-hanging fruit around – I believe small improvements in training can have big effects in how much benefit organizations get from their BI technology investment. BI is not about technology, it’s about people. Information on its own is useless – it takes motivated, trained people to take the technology possibilities and turn them into actual business benefits.

This is true of all technology, of course, but BI is special among enterprise software because it’s still considered largely “optional” – that is, in most organizations, you won’t get fired for not actively using business intelligence software to its full potential. Most people, when they start a new role, are presented with a set of reports from their boss or their predecessor and told to look at certain figures on a regular basis. Few are motivated to go search beyond these figures, to think hard about what they could be doing to measure their effectiveness in more sophisticated ways.

If using business intelligence is too hard, or people don’t know how to do it, they won’t. This effect is sometimes called Mooers’ Law (not to be confused with Moore’s Law concerning integrated circuits), after Calvin Mooer, the computing pioneer who was first to coin the term “information retrieval” in 1950:

“An information retrieval system will tend not to be used whenever it is more painful and troublesome for a customer to have information than for him to not have it.”

We’re not primarily talking about training in how to use the BI products themselves, although ease-of-use is still important. Thanks to consumer internet technology and the advent of swipable mobile devices, nobody ever expects to have to read a software manual again. People now expect interfaces to be so intuitive that they can find their way around without any instructions – perhaps with the occasional hint when they have problems. The latest mobile products such as SAP BusinessObjects Mobile are starting to reach this level for “normal business people”, and SAP Visual Intelligence for “power” business users.

Interface training is still important if people request it, though – most computer-literate people woefully underestimate how hard it is for the “average person” to understand computer interfaces. Here’s an example of how extreme you can be in explaining things, courtesy of  Marek Kowalkiewicz of SAP Research – an instruction sheet for how to plug in a standard LAN cable!

user manual for lan cable small

What’s more important than interface training is training in the business data used, and the analytic skills required to make sense of those numbers. Giving somebody a pencil does not make them Picasso! Other than former MBA students, few employees have any solid grounding in how to draw conclusions from data, or know enough about BI technology to be able to know what might be possible with the right training and tools.

Organizations make thousands of decisions every day. If every one of those decisions could be improved with just a little extra training, the cumulative benefits could be enormous.

So how should companies try to achieve this? First, they need to put training budget in a “lockbox”, protected from other project needs – and yes, these ultimately means “doing less” but “doing it better”. This in turn often means having to rethink KPIs and incentives, making sure that IT and business departments are given joint goals on the business success of BI projects, ratther than IT only being incented to deliver projects – i.e. install the software and create standard reports.

Note that your friendly software sales rep is unlikely to be your ally in this process. Software companies make higher margins on software than on services, so the sales compensation plans are structured to get the rep to spend as much of your budget on software as possible – even if that is not what’s ultimately best for the long-term success of the project or follow-on purchases (the odds are that the sales person will no longer be around at that point).

Second, it means doing real data-oriented training, ideally not in a classroom, but in the users’ own business environments, with the real data they need to make decisions – and doing it over time. People leave companies and change roles, and they need to be able to get up to speed quickly. The training you did when you first rolled out the BI solution last year is already inadequate. Thankfully, this is getting easier with collaborative learning solutions such as those from SuccessFactors that allow front-line employees to swap tips and learning and collaborative decision making in SAP Jam.


About Timo Elliott

Timo Elliott is an innovation evangelist and international conference speaker who has presented to business and IT audiences in over forty countries around the world. A 23-year veteran of SAP BusinessObjects, Elliott works closely with SAP development and innovation centers around the world on new technology directions. His popular Business Analytics blog at tracks innovation in analytics and social media, including topics such as big data, collaborative decision-making, and social analytics. Prior to Business Objects, Elliott was a computer consultant in Hong Kong and led analytics projects for Shell in New Zealand. He holds a first-class honors degree in Economics with Statistics from Bristol University, England.

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13 Scary Statistics On Employee Engagement [INFOGRAPHIC]

Jacob Shriar

There is a serious problem with the way we work.

Most employees are disengaged and not passionate about the work they do. This is costing companies a ton of money in lost productivity, absenteeism, and turnover. It’s also harmful to employees, because they’re more stressed out than ever.

The thing that bothers me the most about it, is that it’s all so easy to fix. I can’t figure out why managers aren’t more proactive about this. Besides the human element of caring for our employees, it’s costing them money, so they should care more about fixing it. Something as simple as saying thank you to your employees can have a huge effect on their engagement, not to mention it’s good for your level of happiness.

The infographic that we put together has some pretty shocking statistics in it, but there are a few common themes. Employees feel overworked, overwhelmed, and they don’t like what they do. Companies are noticing it, with 75% of them saying they can’t attract the right talent, and 83% of them feeling that their employer brand isn’t compelling. Companies that want to fix this need to be smart, and patient. This doesn’t happen overnight, but like I mentioned, it’s easy to do. Being patient might be the hardest thing for companies, and I understand how frustrating it can be not to see results right away, but it’s important that you invest in this, because the ROI of employee engagement is huge.

Here are 4 simple (and free) things you can do to get that passion back into employees. These are all based on research from Deloitte.

1.  Encourage side projects

Employees feel overworked and underappreciated, so as leaders, we need to stop overloading them to the point where they can’t handle the workload. Let them explore their own passions and interests, and work on side projects. Ideally, they wouldn’t have to be related to the company, but if you’re worried about them wasting time, you can set that boundary that it has to be related to the company. What this does, is give them autonomy, and let them improve on their skills (mastery), two of the biggest motivators for work.

Employees feel overworked and underappreciated, so as leaders, we need to stop overloading them to the point where they can’t handle the workload.

2.  Encourage workers to engage with customers

At Wistia, a video hosting company, they make everyone in the company do customer support during their onboarding, and they often rotate people into customer support. When I asked Chris, their CEO, why they do this, he mentioned to me that it’s so every single person in the company understands how their customers are using their product. What pains they’re having, what they like about it, it gets everyone on the same page. It keeps all employees in the loop, and can really motivate you to work when you’re talking directly with customers.

3.  Encourage workers to work cross-functionally

Both Apple and Google have created common areas in their offices, specifically and strategically located, so that different workers that don’t normally interact with each other can have a chance to chat.

This isn’t a coincidence. It’s meant for that collaborative learning, and building those relationships with your colleagues.

4.  Encourage networking in their industry

This is similar to number 2 on the list, but it’s important for employees to grow and learn more about what they do. It helps them build that passion for their industry. It’s important to go to networking events, and encourage your employees to participate in these things. Websites like Eventbrite or Meetup have lots of great resources, and most of the events on there are free.

13 Disturbing Facts About Employee Engagement [Infographic]

What do you do to increase employee engagement? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Did you like today’s post? If so you’ll love our frequent newsletter! Sign up here and receive The Switch and Shift Change Playbook, by Shawn Murphy, as our thanks to you!

This infographic was crafted with love by Officevibe, the employee survey tool that helps companies improve their corporate wellness, and have a better organizational culture.


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Supply Chain Fraud: The Threat from Within

Lindsey LaManna

Supply chain fraud – whether perpetrated by suppliers, subcontractors, employees, or some combination of those – can take many forms. Among the most common are:

  • Falsified labor
  • Inflated bills or expense accounts
  • Bribery and corruption
  • Phantom vendor accounts or invoices
  • Bid rigging
  • Grey markets (counterfeit or knockoff products)
  • Failure to meet specifications (resulting in substandard or dangerous goods)
  • Unauthorized disbursements

LSAP_Smart Supply Chains_graphics_briefook inside

Perhaps the most damaging sources of supply chain fraud are internal, especially collusion between an employee and a supplier. Such partnerships help fraudsters evade independent checks and other controls, enabling them to steal larger amounts. The median loss from fraud committed
by a single thief was US$80,000, according to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE).

Costs increase along with the number of perpetrators involved. Fraud involving two thieves had a median loss of US$200,000; fraud involving three people had a median loss of US$355,000; and fraud with four or more had a median loss of more than US$500,000, according to ACFE.

Build a culture to fight fraud

The most effective method to fight internal supply chain theft is to create a culture dedicated to fighting it. Here are a few ways to do it:

  • Make sure the board and C-level executives understand the critical nature of the supply chain and the risk of fraud throughout the procurement lifecycle.
  • Market the organization’s supply chain policies internally and among contractors.
  • Institute policies that prohibit conflicts of interest, and cross-check employee and supplier data to uncover potential conflicts.
  • Define the rules for accepting gifts from suppliers and insist that all gifts be documented.
  • Require two employees to sign off on any proposed changes to suppliers.
  • Watch for staff defections to suppliers, and pay close attention to any supplier that has recently poached an employee.

About Lindsey LaManna

Lindsey LaManna is Social and Reporting Manager for the Digitalist Magazine by SAP Global Marketing. Follow @LindseyLaManna on Twitter, on LinkedIn or Google+.


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Data Analysts And Scientists More Important Than Ever For The Enterprise

Daniel Newman

The business world is now firmly in the age of data. Not that data wasn’t relevant before; it was just nowhere close to the speed and volume that’s available to us today. Businesses are buckling under the deluge of petabytes, exabytes, and zettabytes. Within these bytes lie valuable information on customer behavior, key business insights, and revenue generation. However, all that data is practically useless for businesses without the ability to identify the right data. Plus, if they don’t have the talent and resources to capture the right data, organize it, dissect it, draw actionable insights from it and, finally, deliver those insights in a meaningful way, their data initiatives will fail.

Rise of the CDO

Companies of all sizes can easily find themselves drowning in data generated from websites, landing pages, social streams, emails, text messages, and many other sources. Additionally, there is data in their own repositories. With so much data at their disposal, companies are under mounting pressure to utilize it to generate insights. These insights are critical because they can (and should) drive the overall business strategy and help companies make better business decisions. To leverage the power of data analytics, businesses need more “top-management muscle” specialized in the field of data science. This specialized field has lead to the creation of roles like Chief Data Officer (CDO).

In addition, with more companies undertaking digital transformations, there’s greater impetus for the C-suite to make data-driven decisions. The CDO helps make data-driven decisions and also develops a digital business strategy around those decisions. As data grows at an unstoppable rate, becoming an inseparable part of key business functions, we will see the CDO act as a bridge between other C-suite execs.

Data skills an emerging business necessity

So far, only large enterprises with bigger data mining and management needs maintain in-house solutions. These in-house teams and technologies handle the growing sets of diverse and dispersed data. Others work with third-party service providers to develop and execute their big data strategies.

As the amount of data grows, the need to mine it for insights becomes a key business requirement. For both large and small businesses, data-centric roles will experience endless upward mobility. These roles include data anlysts and scientists. There is going to be a huge opportunity for critical thinkers to turn their analytical skills into rapidly growing roles in the field of data science. In fact, data skills are now a prized qualification for titles like IT project managers and computer systems analysts.

Forbes cited the McKinsey Global Institute’s prediction that by 2018 there could be a massive shortage of data-skilled professionals. This indicates a disruption at the demand-supply level with the needs for data skills at an all-time high. With an increasing number of companies adopting big data strategies, salaries for data jobs are going through the roof. This is turning the position into a highly coveted one.

According to Harvard Professor Gary King, “There is a big data revolution. The big data revolution is that now we can do something with the data.” The big problem is that most enterprises don’t know what to do with data. Data professionals are helping businesses figure that out. So if you’re casting about for where to apply your skills and want to take advantage of one of the best career paths in the job market today, focus on data science.

I’m compensated by University of Phoenix for this blog. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

For more insight on our increasingly connected future, see The $19 Trillion Question: Are You Undervaluing The Internet Of Things?

The post Data Analysts and Scientists More Important Than Ever For the Enterprise appeared first on Millennial CEO.


About Daniel Newman

Daniel Newman serves as the Co-Founder and CEO of EC3, a quickly growing hosted IT and Communication service provider. Prior to this role Daniel has held several prominent leadership roles including serving as CEO of United Visual. Parent company to United Visual Systems, United Visual Productions, and United GlobalComm; a family of companies focused on Visual Communications and Audio Visual Technologies. Daniel is also widely published and active in the Social Media Community. He is the Author of Amazon Best Selling Business Book "The Millennial CEO." Daniel also Co-Founded the Global online Community 12 Most and was recognized by the Huffington Post as one of the 100 Business and Leadership Accounts to Follow on Twitter. Newman is an Adjunct Professor of Management at North Central College. He attained his undergraduate degree in Marketing at Northern Illinois University and an Executive MBA from North Central College in Naperville, IL. Newman currently resides in Aurora, Illinois with his wife (Lisa) and his two daughters (Hailey 9, Avery 5). A Chicago native all of his life, Newman is an avid golfer, a fitness fan, and a classically trained pianist

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Five Reasons Why Social Collaboration Should Be Part Of Your Digital Transformation

Daisy Hernandez

Digital collaboration technology has revolutionized how we communicate and live our lives. The digital network – powered by search, social, and gamification technologies – has enabled the easy and rapid sharing of knowledge globally. Now it is easy to communicate and collaborate with others no matter their location, time zone, or geography.

In a business context, these same technologies are powering benefits across an organization. By connecting business areas, vital information needed to make critical decisions is no longer siloed and disjointed. Add to this the ability to incorporate business data, and decisions are now not only made collaboratively, but are informed by the latest business-critical information and data, whether it is back-end customer or financial data. This is where the real business benefits start to emerge.

Gartner predicts that 50% of large organizations will use internal social networks resembling Facebook by 2016. Thirty percent of these technologies will be considered to be as essential as email and telephones. Digital transformation is underway, and by using collaboration technology with integrated business data, businesses are starting to see staggering benefits.

Social collaboration: Going beyond information sharing

One of the most well-known benefits of social collaboration in a corporate environment is faster and tighter alignment during a project or process. However, a recent study conducted by Forrester Consulting indicates that the advantages run deep, and run throughout the enterprise. The following are five business benefits collaboration can deliver to your business today.

  1. Boost win rates and accelerate the sales cycle. The average sales deal requires a team effort, with individuals and knowledge that live outside the sales department. A Web-based network, accessible through any device, helps win new business and generate more revenue. By pulling expertise, information, and customer data together in one place, sales reps are able to collaborate within and outside of their organization to respond more quickly and accurately to incoming customer questions and needs.
  1. Improve the quality of onboarding and speed new hires’ time to productivity. Social solutions bring together people from across the organization as they collaborate on projects or teams. When a new hire joins the company, this community enables quick ramp-up as the new hire is able to quickly locate and connect to the experts and information they need to complete their job responsibilities. Add to this the fact that this solution houses the collective genius and lessons learned of the organization, and the result is a dynamic, continuous learning culture.
  1. Deliver unparalleled customer experience – every time. Whenever you can provide anyone on the front lines with the full customer story, everyone wins. Knowledge networks ensure that no matter who is interacting with the customer, they have the complete picture. Integrating backend data with real-time collaboration ensures that they are prepared with the latest data at their fingertips to understand the status of a current or prospective customer. For the customer, this means a seamless experience that is always informed, relevant, and meets their needs.
  1. Support business processes that are truly efficient, transparent, and accessible 24×7. Whether you are involved in marketing, IT, finance, or supply chain operations, it is not uncommon for employees to get lost in email chains and outdated spreadsheets and reports. If the ability to collaborate resides in a central location, existing business processes can be improved and supported. More important, taking this network into the mobile world helps ensure that employees have the information they need any time and anywhere.
  1. Create a future of work that appeals to young talent. Knowledge networks can be a cultural tool that not only serves the business, but also answers the needs of our youngest talent. For Millennials, operating in a digitally connected world is a normal part of life – and they could not imagine anything different in their workplace. In the Forrester report, one hiring manager stated, “Millennials would not like to work at [a] company that doesn’t have a collaboration tool. It’s unimaginable — we can’t hire without it.” Could you? Most likely not.

Now you can be part of shaping how organizations adopt and find value in social collaboration technology. Tell us what obstacles you are facing and the benefits you are reaping by taking part in this survey to help SAP develop our future perspective on social collaboration and how it affects us all as employees, managers, and businesses.


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