/ Ensuring a Smooth Ride in the BI Fast Lane

As you may know from my previous blog post I've been on the hunt for a new vehicle. After driving several different models and comparing amenities and performance, I chose the vehicle that's right for me. Now, being in sales, comes the fun part for me

As you may know from my previous blog post I’ve been on the hunt for a new vehicle. After driving several different models and comparing amenities and performance, I chose the vehicle that’s right for me. Now, being in sales, comes the fun part for me… negotiating the best price on the exact model I want. Given that the 2012 models are starting to arrive in the show rooms, I decided that I would get my paws on a new 2011 with – hopefully – substantial savings.

The combination of color and features that I want is fairly rare, especially given that I was hunting what is now last year’s model. So, using the car maker’s online network, I decided to contact the dealers in Utah and surrounding states, as well as states that I would be willing to visit to see friends and then drive home in my new baby. (For the record, that added about 15 states to the list.) Using the dealerships’ “easy-to-use” online system, I wrote a VERY specific message that I sent to 60 dealers telling them the year, make, model, colors and options I was looking for, when I was looking to buy, as well as how I would like to be contacted. The process took several hours, but I figured that ultimately would be time – and money – very well spent.

What I didn’t count on was how poorly the dealership contact system was designed and implemented. For one thing, I had to navigate to a separate page for each dealer. For another thing, nearly 20% of the dealerships never got my email. I also didn’t count on some dealerships receiving only a portion of the text of my message, and others receiving only my name and contact information, and still others getting my message but not delivering the information I requested when I needed it. Within 48 hours of my emailing spree, I started receiving dozens of phone calls and emails, most of them asking me to repeat the same information I included in my original message. What was supposed to be a three-hour exercise to save money turned into countless conversations with confused and misinformed dealers. The entire process left me exhausted and frustrated.

The same pain and displeasure I went through on my car hunt can happen to your BI users if you don’t design the system with their needs in mind. It seems obvious, doesn’t it? But I can’t even count the number of systems I’ve seen over the years that were built without involving the end users or truly understanding their needs, and I’ve seen even more failed projects that delivered either the wrong information, only a portion of the right information, and/or delivered the right information but way too late for users to derive value from it. Don’t let that happen to you. It is critical to deliver value to your users and give them a system that is both easy to use and delivers what they need, when they need it. If you don’t, you’ll quickly find that you spent lots of time of money paving a BI fast lane for your users that is not at all smooth nor fast.