Data and insights are meaningless if they can’t be leveraged to drive positive business outcomes. That’s why actionable intelligence is not only becoming a term that more and more business leaders are familiar with, but a methodology that they are building entirely new BI strategies around.
Indeed, to win in an ultra-competitive business environment like the one that exists today, you can’t sit still. You need to be able to make informed decisions quickly. And then you need to act on those decisions immediately.
Lots of organizations are already on this proverbial train. How did they become passengers, and what do you need to know in order to climb aboard, too?
That’s what Wayne Eckerson and I discussed during a recent Domo-sponsored webinar. Wayne is the founder of Eckerson Group, a global research and consulting firm that focuses solely on data analytics, and the author of a new book titled Actionable Intelligence: The Next Frontier in Business Intelligence.
Our conversation began with Wayne providing a brief overview of the three distinct eras of intelligence over the course of the last 30-plus years—business intelligence, self-service intelligence, and artificial intelligence—and evolved into a thorough breakdown of why BI vendors are placing more emphasis than ever on embedded analytics, augmented analytics, and the development of custom analytic applications.
But nothing addressed where BI is going—and why it’s going there—more than the following questions that were posed to Wayne by the webinar’s moderator and Domo’s chief communications officer, Julie Kehoe.
Julie: You’ve certainly done your research on this shift to actionable intelligence, Wayne. So, tell us: Why should people care about it?
Wayne: Well, like Domo, we’re in the business of turning data into insights and action. And we know how hard that is, just to go from data to insights.
The next frontier really is to take it from insights to action. I know a lot of executives who may not be completely enlightened about analytics, or completely patient with what it takes to deliver analytics. So, I think we are seeing a concerted effort by the BI community to address those realities, and to make sure their tools are generating real value.
We in this community really can’t sleep at night until we know that customers are getting the most value possible, and that they’re executing on insights. Because, ultimately, that’s all that matters.
Julie: What potential pitfalls do people need to be mindful of as they build and execute a successful actionable intelligence strategy for their business?
Wayne: Be very aware that it’s a change-management exercise, because it takes a while for people to adopt and absorb new technology. Especially with AI-driven technologies, users have to be convinced that they can trust the output. Why should they trust a black box? They can’t talk to it, and they can’t see what it’s doing most of the time. They can really only prove it out through practical experience, which means they have to try it. And most users, as you know, are very busy.
So, they don’t want to spend their time trying something when they already know how to do it another way—even if that other way may be less efficient. So, we really have to manage carefully. We probably need to roll it out very slowly, for a carefully-picked target group, and then get the word out, show positive results, and build from there.
And then on the infrastructure side, we have to be careful about generating alerts automatically. We’ve seen in the past generation of BI tools that you can swamp users who receive alerts. And if those users perceive those alerts as irrelevant, or not accurate, they’ll completely turn off that system, which may be generating a lot of value.
So, that’s very important, too. It probably has to go through a long validation period to make sure that those updates are accurate, and that they’re not being incorrectly triggered, and they don’t cascade and balloon out of control in an automated process like sometimes happens on stock exchanges. So, there are things we need to be aware of when we start automating things.
Julie: What specific trends do you see driving change within organizations? And what legacy strategies or technologies need to be reimagined or reevaluated in order to take advantage of these trends?
Wayne: One thing that needs to be reevaluated is whether we need to keep hiring large numbers of data analysts and data engineers. They become a bottleneck for users trying to get answers to their business questions. There aren’t enough analysts to do the analysis.
This is where self-service comes in. We need to be able to help users help themselves. And we can do that through some of the technologies we’re talking about today, through AI-driven augmented intelligence, AutoML, and data science capabilities.
I also think we need to implement more productive, efficient workflows between these users and roles. And give users all the tools. But they need to be productive in their specific role. So, rather than forcing business users to become data analysts, and data analysts to become data engineers, let them be what they are. Let them communicate their needs, and then give each of those roles the tools they need to really accelerate what they would do normally, so they can be 10 times more productive.
That’s what’s great about the end-to-end toolset. They’re all working on the same platform but using different elements of it, and collaborating via a built-in workflow.
Julie: What are some of the first steps that people should take to get to actionable intelligence and this next phase of BI?
Wayne: I would start by taking a good, hard, long look at how you are doing data and analytics. Where are the bottlenecks you’re encountering just in delivering data to users?
I also think you may want to do some process engineering to understand bottlenecks in a broader sense, and how data and analytics can be used to break through those bottlenecks. With any of these things, adoption is key. But start small, target your audience carefully, and build incrementally.
Watch the webinar to get more of Wayne’s perspective on actionable intelligence and to see how Domo’s modern BI platform makes it easy to plug into this next frontier of BI.