The results of our 2013 Wisdom of Crowds® Collaborative Business Intelligence Market Study show that the collaborative BI market is in an early market dynamic. More than 60 percent of the respondents ranked collaborative BI as “critical,” “very important” or “important.” That said, it ranks #12 in priorities among the 19 technologies and initiatives we track as being strategic to business intelligence.
Our survey respondents indicated that their top mechanisms for collaborating with business intelligence (BI) insights in 2013 are still email, face-to-face meetings and telephone calls. This has not changed significantly since our 2012 survey.
In this year’s survey we added “virtual meetings” as a mechanism for sharing BI insights, and respondents ranked it fourth in popularity. Online meetings such as WebEx or Go to Meeting are pervasive these days and a simple facility at users’ disposal for sharing information. I think that the ability to collaborate is more important now than ever. But organizations are not adopting the collaborative capabilities within BI tools quite as much as I had expected this year simply because the other forms of collaboration are so much more readily available and accessible.
I believe that over time the need to align the organization through common insight will increase the importance of collaborative BI.
Where is collaborative BI proving to be most important?
The study revealed that the sales and strategic planning functions place higher value on collaborative BI than marketing, finance and IT. Strategic planning functions, by their very nature, must be collaborative because their scope is enterprise-wide. And the sales organization is typically fairly collaborative.
As with other new technologies and approaches we see a “u-shaped” adoption curve where the largest and the smallest organizations perceive the greatest value in collaborative BI.
The 1,182 participants were distributed among small, medium and large organizations at a similar split (26 percent large, 42 percent midsize and 32 percent small) as in the 2012 survey (24 percent large, 45 percent midsize and 31 percent small). Collaboration means different things in smaller organizations versus larger organizations.
In a larger organization when they say they want to collaborate, it’s really about driving greater efficiency within their internal organization. And they are more likely to be physically co-located with their peers and share information via face-to-face meetings. In a smaller organization collaboration really means collaborating with external constituencies. They are more likely to leverage file sharing. Our survey indicates that smaller organizations have strongly adopted collaborative BI and are using it to drive competitive advantages.
Core BI collaboration features
One of the most interesting findings in the study is the prioritization of core BI collaboration features. Respondents ranked the ability to “follow BI objects” as number two in importance (after “annotate BI objects” using dashboards, charts), which is dramatically higher than in 2012 when respondents ranked it last in importance. This capability notifies users of their colleagues’ changes to information and interactions.
Following a BI object simplifies and automates the process a little more so that people don’t have to constantly log in to find out if something changed. It’s easier to have the system let a user know whether or not a team member changed something. This is especially important for mobile users who may not be in a position to log in at any point in time to know that something changed or moved forward or that the user’s input is needed.
So being able to follow a BI object seems to be sort of a natural ability that organizations and individuals would want to have.
However, although the users ranked it second in prioritization, the vendors ranked it last in our survey. Based on our interviews of vendors regarding their plans, this gap in alignment should dissipate over the next 12-24 months.
SharePoint, Google Docs, Salesforce Chatter and Dropbox frameworks
The figure below shows the top collaborative frameworks in use, by size of organization, for involving a variety of constituents in a decision-making process. These frameworks tend to be used most often internally in large organizations and predominantly externally by small organizations. The survey found that Microsoft SharePoint is the most widely used framework, followed by Google Docs and Dropbox, which tend to be used more often in smaller organizations.
Microsoft has done a really good job of pushing SharePoint, and Microsoft has a strong brand in all sizes of organizations. In my discussions with organizations using SharePoint, it’s clear that it is more than a collaborative engine. It also serves as their document storage, search and management environment.
The fact that Google Docs is free is the primary motivator for its use. However, it is seeping into corporate culture in many cases where they do need to pay for it.
Vendor support for collaborative BI features
Roughly 80 percent of vendors support collaborative capabilities within their product today, and most of them don’t charge for it. In fact, the percentage of vendors not charging for collaborative BI grew from 78 percent in 2012 to 87 percent in 2013. Nearly all vendors support annotations and sharing, which are the top two capabilities that users want.
However, users that want a BI vendor’s product to integrate with a broader framework (such as SharePoint, Google Docs, etc.) will find a much shorter list of vendors providing that support. Our study found that only 50 percent of vendors today support more than the most basic integration. Although we expect this to improve over the coming months and years, it will likely remain limited for the foreseeable future.
The good news is if we compare current user requirements for collaborative BI features versus vendor capability, we see general alignment (except for the “follow BI objects” function).
However, the survey also shows that vendors appear to have invested in features that users do not yet view as important such as mobile collaboration and maintaining multiple versions (history). Typically vendors tend to lead the users, investing ahead of user demand. Our survey indicates that today most users are not asking for more than the basics in collaborative BI functions. This level of investment by vendors is characteristic of an early market dynamic.
Key to success with collaborative BI
We’re still in the early-adopters stage of this market. I believe organizations can really benefit from this technology, but embracing collaborative technologies requires having a collaborative corporate culture. And this is not limited to business intelligence processes; it must be pervasive in everything the organization does.
Collaborating requires a degree of transparency. People must be willing to publish their opinions and make them a matter of public record. Most people don’t want to be transparent. They want everyone else to be transparent, but they want to be opaque. They want everybody else to be held accountable, but they don’t want to be held accountable. Transparency must start at the top of the organization and filter down.
Another constraint in adoption is that organizations need to train people on how to collaborate and share information in a way that’s most useful and relevant. We’ve seen with email what collaboration is like in large organizations — copy everybody just in case. It’s a huge drain and drag on the corporation with thousands of superfluous emails going back and forth. So we must train people on how to share collaborative BI information to make sure we’re not just broadcasting it and hoping that the right people have it but, rather, that we’re targeting and sharing it in a way that is actually useful to someone else.
The bottom line is that today most organizations are not collaborative organizations. There may be pockets of collaboration, but it’s not a core cultural tenet. So I think the growth of this market will be evolutionary.
In an organization that lacks a collaborative culture, collaborative BI technology won’t achieve very much. But in organizations that have a collaborative culture, applying collaborative technology enhances and enables the effectiveness of collaboration. Organizations that utilize these sorts of collaborative capabilities can better leverage more scarce resources and can come to decisions much more quickly.
The report on the 2013 Wisdom of Crowds® Collaborative Business Intelligence Market Study is available at www.collaborativereport.com. The report includes a Consumer Guide for collaborative BI; user feature requirements; vendor ratings; plus findings on the importance of collaborative BI by industry, function, geography and organization size; enterprise collaborative frameworks in use; user priorities versus vendor capabilities; and more.
The Wisdom of Crowds ® Collaborative Business Intelligence Market Study was conceived and executed by Dresner Advisory Services, LLC, an independent advisory firm, and Howard Dresner, its president, founder and chief research officer. Howard Dresner 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.” 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.