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Brain Training to Create BI Power Users: Part 2

This is part 2 of a blog series centered on the topic of creating BI power users.

My last blog on this topic introduced the concept of nurturing the brains of analysts with the right combination of tools and support to build a community of power users. This blog explores that approach further.

The success of your BI implementation will be measured largely on platform and tool adoption. Your approach will have exceeded expectations when your fledgling power users dazzle the business community with their data prowess. If you fail, yet another BI tool will languish on company desktops.

Tool adoption numbers can be boosted dramatically – if your users experience the right combination of tool capabilities and support. The rate and depth of tool absorption will dictate how many power users your organization can develop.

Six months after conducting training sessions for a BI tool, I’ve found that typically two students out of a class of ten will grow into power users, six will develop varying levels of competency with the tool, and two will entirely miss the point.  This equates to roughly two potential power users per class – a 200 batting average.

That’s the training program for just one data access tool.  True ‘power users’ need a robust toolset to source, analyze, and present data – a tool set that offers data access on user terms, customized to what they need.

The expectations (and brains) of our end users have changed dramatically over the last two decades. Older knowledge workers came to IT via green screens and command lines and are likely comfortable as code mongers. The younger generation of knowledge workers was weaned on GUI and internet apps, point and click, drag and drop. This translates into more visual, less logical. Arguably, younger generations may latch onto the visual tools more easily, while having a steeper learning curve with code. This difference in thinking styles will prove crucial to standing up the appropriate BI ecosystem.

We don’t know the individual style of any particular analyst – visual? logical? mixed? The tools, techniques and support network need to form a BI ecosystem that accommodates all thinking (and working) styles.

Our goal is to boost the data handling capability of each analyst as quickly as possible with knowledge gains that persevere, agnostic to thinking styles. Well, not so much agnostic as all-encompassing – we don’t care how the data is accessed, as long as each self-service inquiry provides the answer the user is seeking.

The more easily their brains connect with the tool, the more quickly users will grasp the tool as a portal into the data. Power users are created when the right type of support is available at critical inflection points on the learning curve. Create an open, supportive environment, and guide your users when necessary.

BI tools should not be deployed simply for business capability, ease of support, and lowest cost of ownership.  Let’s not deny these are important considerations – just remember your audience. The BI tool environment needs to be configured from the beginning to provide a user-friendly, intuitive context where the tools become a natural extension of the end user’s thinking.

Plan for the masses, but build a BI ecosystem that enables individuals.

My next blog will discuss the presentation and working styles that set the standard for building the power user community.