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Dresner’s Point: Collaborative Technology Won’t Make You Collaborative

by Dashboard Insight, Dashboard InsightThursday, February 06, 2014

At one of our recent Friday #BIWisdom tweetchats, we talked about the findings in our 2013 Wisdom of Crowds® Collaborative Business Intelligence Market Study, which led to an insightful conversation about why some organizations haven’t adopted collaborative BI technologies and why some adopted it but failed to achieve the anticipated value.

We started with the group coming to an agreement as to what collaborative BI is. I tweeted that, at a minimum, it’s the ability to annotate, share and co-author in the context of the BI solution.

Others tweeted that it:

  • Requires that people interact with other users, not just with visuals and data
  • Is good for driving toward consensus and documenting the process
  • Is important for distributed organizations where it’s difficult to have face-to-face meetings
  • Enables collaborating with people one has never met
  • Is good for addressing information that doesn’t lend itself to being captured nonverbally

We agreed that collaborative BI is a good mechanism for sharing explicit knowledge but face-to-face meetings are still the best way to share implicit knowledge. Facial expressions are an extremely important part of the context in sharing implicit knowledge.

If it’s so effective, why aren’t organizations jumping on the collaborative BI bandwagon and why have some not seen the anticipated ROI?

The #BIWisdom tribe had several observations:

  • Some companies are not progressing fast enough on a BI maturity model.
  • The technology is in an early stage and perhaps is not good enough yet to gain acceptance with an audience broader than early adopters.
  • Mobile BI has so many collaborative features that people don’t realize collaborative BI technologies are different from mobile BI.
  • It’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg phenomenon: Some organizations may have the right technology but lack a collaborative culture, yet others may have a collaborative culture but may not have implemented the right technology.

But what resonated most strongly with the tribe was the conclusion that adoption of collaborative BI technologies is a generational issue. Organizations that have a younger board tend to have younger collaborative business processes across the organization. Where top leadership is older, the organization often lacks top-down encouragement for a collaborative culture and incorporating feedback into the way it operates.

Short of the threat of ouster, embracing collaborative tech tools requires strong change management to build a culture change that understands the value added proposition leveraging collaboration. The group provided two examples of rigid organizational changes to implement a collaborative culture.

The first example was a failure. A large multinational telecommunication company undertook a strategy to change its culture. After 10 years the change has not been accomplished. The big learning is that the strategy was flawed from the beginning because they failed to identify all the actors and their differing stances.

The second example was an organization with 5,000 employees; five percent of them were involved in the change. This successful BI initiative was built on Yammer. The main ingredient it required was curiosity and a desire to improve. It took six months to really gear up, and it reached critical mass when everyone realized that they were solving problems collaboratively that they could not have solved in isolation.

Bottom line: Our Friday #BIWisdom tweetchats are actually a good example of collaboration. Participants (BI users, vendors and consultants) are remote, collaborate with no boundaries and leverage a chance to think “big picture.” Too often organizations throw technology at an underlying cultural issue. But collaborative BI technology is only an enabler for a culture that is already collaborative. The deployment of any business strategy needs to include a solid change management process, plan, strategy and enforcement/modeling from top management; this is especially true with collaborative BI. Collaborative technology will not make an organization collaborative.

2013 Wisdom of Crowds Collaborative Business Intelligence Market Study with Buyers’ Guide

Howard Dresner is president, founder and chief research officer at Dresner Advisory Services, LLC, an independent advisory firm. He is one of the foremost thought leaders in Business Intelligence and Performance Management, having coined the term “Business Intelligence” in 1989. He has published two books on the subject, The Performance Management Revolution — Business Results through Insight and Action, and Profiles in Performance — Business Intelligence Journeys and the Roadmap for Change. He hosts a weekly tweet chat (#BIWisdom) on Twitter each Friday. Prior to Dresner Advisory Services, Howard served as chief strategy officer at Hyperion Solutions and was a research fellow at Gartner, where he led its Business Intelligence research practice for 13 years.

Howard Dresner is president, founder and chief research officer at Dresner Advisory Services, LLC, an independent advisory firm. He is one of the foremost thought leaders in Business Intelligence and Performance Management, having coined the term “Business Intelligence” in 1989. He has published two books on the subject, The Performance Management Revolution — Business Results through Insight and Action, and Profiles in Performance — Business Intelligence Journeys and the Roadmap for Change. He hosts a weekly tweet chat (#BIWisdom) on Twitter each Friday. Prior to Dresner Advisory Services, Howard served as chief strategy officer at Hyperion Solutions and was a research fellow at Gartner, where he led its Business Intelligence research practice for 13 years.

Article originally published on the Business Intelligence Blog.

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