In Part One of this blog series, I talked about changing your IT culture to better support self-service BI and data discovery. Absolutely essential. However, your work is not done!
Self-service BI and data discovery will drive the number of users using the BI solutions to rapidly expand. Yet all of these more casual users will not be well versed in BI and visualization best practices.
When your user base rapidly expands to more casual users, you need to help educate them on what is important. For example, one IT manager told me that his casual BI users were making visualizations with very difficult-to-read charts and customizing color palettes to incredible degrees.
I had a similar experience when I was a technical writer. One of our lead writers was so concerned with readability of every sentence that he was going through the 300+ page manuals (yes, they were printed then) and manually adjusting all of the line breaks and page breaks. (!) Yes, readability was incrementally improved. But now any number of changes–technical capabilities, edits, inserting larger graphics—required re-adjusting all of those manual “optimizations.” The time it took just to do the additional optimization was incredible, much less the maintenance of these optimizations! Meanwhile, the technical writing team was falling behind on new deliverables.
The same scenario applies to your new casual BI users. This new group needs guidance to help them focus on the highest value practices:
- Customization of color and appearance of visualizations: When is this customization necessary for a management deliverable, versus indulging an OCD tendency? I too have to stop myself from obsessing about the font, line spacing, and that a certain blue is just a bit different than another shade of blue. Yes, these options do matter. But help these casual users determine when that time is well spent.
- Proper visualizations: When is a spinning 3D pie chart necessary to grab someone’s attention? BI professionals would firmly say “NEVER!” But these casual users do not have a lot of depth on BI best practices. Give them a few simple guidelines as to when “flash” needs to subsume understanding. Consider offering a monthly one-hour Lunch and Learn that shows them how to create impactful, polished visuals. Understanding if their visualizations are going to be viewed casually on the way to a meeting, or dissected at a laptop, also helps determine how much time to spend optimizing a visualization. No, you can’t just mandate that they all read Tufte.
- Standards: Consider implementing some standards for your casual users, so they don’t have to remember the best practices. For example, implement charts that follow Hichert’s guidelines.
- Predictive: Provide advanced analytics capabilities like forecasting and regression directly in their casual BI tools. Using these capabilities will really help them wow their audience with substance instead of flash.
- Feature requests: Make sure you understand the motivation and business value behind some of the casual users’ requests. These casual users are less likely to understand the implications of supporting specific requests across an enterprise, so make sure you are collaborating on use cases and priorities for substantive requests.
By working with your casual BI users on the above points, you will be able to collectively understand when the absolute exact request is critical (and supports good visualization practices), and when it is an “optimization” that may impact productivity. In many cases, “good” is good enough for the fast turnaround of data discovery.
Next week, I’ll wrap this series up with hints on getting your casual users to embrace the “we” not “me” mentality.
Read Part One of this series: Changing The IT Culture For Self-Service BI Success.
Follow me on Twitter: @InaSAP