Are Your BI Tools Ready For The Next Generation Of Work?

There’s no question we are on the brink of a new era of work. The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the need to rethink where we work, how we work, and even what we expect out of those who do work. Gartner predicts that these changes are permanent—75% percent of hybrid or remote knowledge workers have increased expectations of a flexible work model; 40% of all knowledge workers could quit if their companies insist on returning to a strict 9-5 model in an office.1

Recent advancements in technology have made such a flexible world possible. We now have tools that allow us to work from anywhere, have conversations with those halfway around the globe, and achieve goals and outcomes that a few years ago would’ve been unthinkable.

These tools have also come at a cost. Today’s workers are stretched thin, juggling an ever-increasing suite of apps, devices and tools just to stay connected and informed, before even considering their actual job. Time now comes at a premium, and it’s simply unsustainable to ask people to invest additional time into learning even more skills outside of their core jobs.

If we’re going to rethink work, we must also rethink the tools we ask workers to use to do their jobs, and nowhere is this more true than in analytics and business intelligence.

Workers are not using our current BI tools

There’s a simple way to gauge whether or not a tool does its job: See whether or not people actually use it in their work. When it comes to analytics and self-service BI, the reality is that people do not. According to research by IDC, only 13% of decision makers use their BI tool daily; nearly half only use it once a month. As a result, many companies are looking to augment their BI solutions (75%) or replace them entirely (50%) within the next two years. Why is this?

The number one reason is ease of use. Today’s analytics tools are too hard, too siloed, and too divorced from our actual work. Although self-service BI made analytics more accessible compared to IT-led reporting, we’ve made the mistake of conflating the desire to make data-driven decisions with the desire to become analysts. In the new era of work, people want answers and informed recommendations on what actions to take next. They do not have the luxury of spending time digging through dozens of dashboards or upskilling themselves to analyze databases on their own.

If we want our workforce to use insights from data to make decisions, we must align our strategy for how we use data with the vision of how we will work. This means analytics must become as seamless and flexible as work itself—accessible from anywhere in the world, in collaboration with others, and most critically, usable by anyone, with minimal additional training outside of their core jobs.

Adapt and deliver insights from data to workers

When smartphones took off, the paradigm of how we interacted with apps changed. We were no longer tied to our desktop computers at home or in the office, having to manually check mail and other applications for updates. Instead, those apps sent alerts and notifications to us on our phones as new information arrived. As consumers, technology changed our relationship with our tools.

In the BI industry, however, recent advancements in the cloud, mobile, and even AI have done little to change the way we derive insights from data. We’re still stuck with standalone dashboards, sometimes modified for different screen sizes and the occasional touch gesture. We need a much bigger paradigm shift.

The future of work will demand that our BI tools adapt the delivery of analytics to workers depending on where they are and what devices and apps they’re using—and not the other way around. Insights from data should not look the same on a desktop computer and a mobile device, nor a smartwatch, a smart speaker, or when embedded into other apps. We simply cannot expect workers to continue signing in to dedicated portals or searching for PDFs and charts every time they want to make a decision, whether in an office or on the field.

A natural part of our workflows

An uncomfortable truth about a flexible, remote workforce is that everyone will have a different workflow. All modern tools will have to embrace this, BI and analytics included. In the same way that companies should embrace and promote a hybrid workforce (or face one that could quit), companies should also embrace analytics that isn’t divorced from people’s workflows, but instead is naturally embedded into them, no matter how varied and diverse.

What does this look like in practice? It looks like analysts using self-service tools, while sales reps stay in their CRM and still get data-driven recommendations on who to contact next. It looks like board rooms having discussions over interactive dashboards on a big screen, while airline safety teams get automatic alerts on their iPads about which parts to inspect and replace.

This is BI that is ready for the next generation of work—insights from data infused into the workflow of every professional no matter their technical expertise or proximity to an office. It’s analytics that combines where we get information with where we take action. It’s automatically turning every decision into a data-driven decision.

In this future, we stop focusing on tools, and deliver data to people where, when and how they need it to make them more efficient at their jobs.

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