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Using BI search to create organization wide accessibility to BI

by Lyndsay WiseThursday, February 14, 2008

Within the past year and a half, search has become an integral part of BI.  Whether embedded within BI tools through partnerships or by search vendors marketing themselves within the business intelligence space, it is safe to assume that the use of search within BI will continue to increase and will eventually become an embedded part and common component of BI offerings. 

This is a step toward the expansion of BI within the organization by creating an environment that mimics personal Internet use at the office.  Since BI is in need of an overhaul due to the wide perception of its lack of user friendliness on a large scale, the importance of search ought not to be underestimated. Until recently, many BI deployments targeted so-called “super users”.  As organizations shift focus towards wider deployments of BI within the organization, its use is becoming more common.  Unfortunately, in many cases, the perception of a lack of ease of use (a “dis-ease”?) has remained a roadblock to widespread adoption.  BI search undeniably enhances the perceived ease of use of business intelligence tools, making widespread adoption more likely.

With the combination of search and integrated portals, and by using social media and Web 2.0 concepts as a guide, BI is slowly moving towards actual organization-wide implementations.  Included in this change are embedded BI (BI within business processes – where in some cases end users don’t even know they are using BI) and “pervasive BI” or BI for the masses (BI being deployed to and used by all decision makers across the organization).  What this means for organizations is that long-term success and organization-wide deployments of business intelligence solutions may depend upon developing and deploying BI in a way that matches personal computer use.  But does search really help organizations achieve this and if so, how?

Before answering this question, it is important to identify the perceptions associated with BI search use and tie that to the actual benefits of embedding search within BI.  Once identified, it is possible to see how search can be used within the confines of BI to increase the perception of the general ease of use of BI.

Perceived advantages of BI search

Some general advantages of search include:

  • Ease of use – enabling end users to use computers the way they do in their personal lives, whether by searching for vacation getaways, conducting price comparisons or simply shopping online
  • Access to information – giving end users the ability to find BI related content without requiring the knowledge of where data resides, the names of reports, or what information is currently available
  • BI for the masses – allowing all decision makers in the organization information access
  • Broader use of business intelligence – providing diversity of use to give end users options of how they access BI
  • Integration with organization wide processes – expanding search within BI or adding search to access business intelligence documents. Embedding search technology within organizations has become commonplace within content or document management systems, library systems, etc.

Gap identification – perceived vs real benefits

The advantages identified above provide the first step towards actual pervasiveness of BI throughout the organization. For instance, using search is more user friendly than accessing BI reports or cubes because of the innate familiarity of using search.  In terms of BI for the masses, simply distributing information to more people through search does not increase the ability to use the information provided to drive organizational decision-making. However, it does enable the first step towards making more informed decisions by increasing accessibility to relevant information.

Although use of search does accomplish many of the perceived advantages, the advantages themselves do not occur in a vacuum.  The simple application of BI search does not guarantee that BI use within the organization will expand, or that users will be able to make more informed decisions. 

Giving end users access to more information in a way that mimics their personal use does not mean that once they have the right information they will use it to make informed decisions.  However, broadening the scope of BI use through search does allow users to access more information once they know what they are looking for.  This means that simply providing access to what is already available may not be enough.  The use of search allows decision makers the ability to see what is available and identify potential gaps in a way that may not be available through traditional BI. Using search actively by both looking for the required information and by also identifying potential gaps provide a way for decision makers to utilize search actively, moving beyond simply inputting text strings and searching through results. 

The road towards BI expansion

An organization’s use of BI search is the first step towards information sharing and better decision-making.  The creation of a more dynamic end user environment also creates more competitive advantage for organizations.  Today, people expect to be able to interact with their information technology environment, hence Web 2.0. Therefore, the creation of an environment that allows end users access to timely information and the autonomy to search for specific items without in-depth knowledge of database structures become one of the essential aspects for the expansion of BI within the organization.

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