The Business Intelligence Club is an Elite Club

Originally Posted March 31 2011


And it’s likely going to grow a bit in the near future, but not so much.

 Business Intelligence vendors claim that about 20% of business users use some sort of BI tools, other researchers say it’s more 10% . Anyway, it’s a very low adoption rate.

Actually I suspect that the true adoption rate is even lower.

Many BI applications or implementations explicitly define some sort of passive users, who simply consume data in static formats like pdf or print them. Are these actually BI users? I think not. They are simply data consumers and the delivery method is a minor concern. Many of them would be very happy to ask a question to a human on the phone and receive an Excel file in the inbox few minutes later. These are not a BI users but users who are provided with the information or the data they need by a BI system.

So the adoption rate is low … low if compared to what? 

As usual no number is meaningful if it’s not compared to some other. It is a low rate if compared to the adoption of other business software,  personal productivity tools and communication tools. Everybody uses email or a browser because everybody needs to communicate efficiently, almost everyone uses Office to organize their own working environment, and ERP CRM or MES systems are widely adopted within the company. Maybe with few functions active, but they are.

If BI must support the control function , than we see that fewer people exert the control function than those who work in operations. Also, operational tiers have the many info they need directly from the transactional systems. So a lower adoption rate than other apps is natural and it’s here to stay.

But what about all those passive users described above? There lays the true challenge and the room for expansion. 

If we are able to build applications that adhere to the mental model those people have, that are easy enough to be understood and that provide the answers they need with simplicity, we can win them. The #newBI is all about that, winning the minds and the hearts of those users who think that learning a BI tool is a waste of time and that they just need some infos, and fast!  It is not, as said by some analysts, simply adopting cloud based tools and listening to the customers, it is actually helping the users to kick asses by working on data and extracting all the information and knowledge they need to act. They have no clue of the structure of underlying data and they do not want to know about. They have business requirements, often iterative, and they need something that help them fulfill those requirements in business terms.
If they’re trying to reply to the question “what’s the impact of a fuel price increase on delivery costs”, they must be given with two levers with “increase fuel cost” and “lower fuel cost”, written on it. Operating the levers they must see the “delivery cost” cell increase or decrease accordingly.
Notice that mainstream BI vendors are almost ignoring this point while they focus on megadata and fancy user interfaces and this explains the “Upstream” blog name ;o).
That’s what I’m trying to do with Viney@rd 2.0 but I really would like to see or to be pointed to applications that already implement this. Please, feel free to comment on them on the blog!


I must thank Ken Hilburn who inspired the bulk of this post by expressing his opinion on LinkedIn, I actually  rephrased many of Ken’s statements.


2397 views and 1 response

  • Apr 2 2011, 10:38 AM

    Bill Cabiro responded:

    Augusto, you ar absolutely right. BI is an elite club. From six different studies we conclude that approximately only 5% of employees use BI tools to perform Analytics effectively.

    I think this is in part related to the fact that except for folks with backgrounds in science, engineering, economics or finance; most people across the company do not feel too comfortable around numbers, math or logic. I've seen this during many years of training corporate employees on the strategic use of Business Intelligence and Analytics.

    This is how the numbers work: close to 50% of employees have access to BI tools, 20% of them actually use them, and about half of the users (5%) are in the analytical / power user categories.

    Please feel free to read the full article and let me know your thoughts

    Regards, Bill