Traditional Business Intelligence Training Models Must Adapt to Support End-User Adoption
by Marty Carney
Originally published July 17, 2012
People rarely learn much on their first attempt, first lesson or first encounter – no matter the topic. A single golf lesson won’t make someone a top-10 player on the PGA Tour, nor will one cooking class make a person an instant executive chef.
Current Support “Pillars”There are three primary means for users and organizations to receive business intelligence training and knowledge:
Vendor Support: The traditional help desk is very good and very helpful when someone has an error code that needs addressing, but entering the realm of in-depth, rapid instruction and mentorship is not so easy under this model. In addition, most support organizations use ticket-based systems that can become discouraging to some users. Those discouraged users typically look for alternate information sources.
Training: Training organizations provide great, in-depth help at the onset of a product implementation, often in the form of one-time, on-site sessions or seminars that can be very costly, generic and even boring. For many people, much of the knowledge acquired during these events is not retained after a few days.
Webinars can be helpful too, especially if they are recorded and can be accessed by users as a reference in the future. However, webinars can be limiting if a user has a very specific question or situation that is not covered in the online materials.
Consulting Companies: Consulting firms are full of knowledge and can help companies choose the business intelligence products that fit their business needs. However, outside their initial training and setup window, most consultants require at least a one-week training engagement at a high hourly rate. Users will also incur travel and other expenses if the training is on site, and many consultants will hire a regional freelancer outside the company for support sessions.
A Bridge to Comprehensive SupportUnfortunately, end-user adoption can’t be dependent on a consultant or internal business intelligence champion providing a short window of instruction, nor can it rely solely on “canned” webinars, one-time “custom” training classes or vendor support lines geared toward addressing software error messages.
Today’s end users need a qualified resource that can complement traditional support models and serve as a bridge to consistent and widespread user adoption. They need someone they can access while they’re “in the trenches” – a person or team that can instruct them on how to achieve their deliverable, while teaching them how to manage specific situations on their own in the future.
The business intelligence community has been yearning for this approach to product training and adoption, but most existing business intelligence vendors and consulting firms, as well as many internal IT teams, simply don’t have the structure and support to affordably provide this kind of learning.
The industry needs to shift to a new, supplemental support model that focuses on immediate help at a user’s point-of-need. When searching for BI help, companies should ensure their new support structure embodies the following characteristics:
Instant – End users must be able to instantaneously access a support person when they are in the heat of battle. For example, if it’s Friday afternoon and a user has a report due Monday morning, but gets stuck building a vital chart or graph, where can he turn for fast help and training when he needs it most? New business intelligence support models must address this need for speed and provide timely problem solving “in the moment” with the user’s own data.
Knowledgeable – The new model should not only be instant, but full of knowledge as well, meaning it should support a wide variety of business intelligence issues. When searching for providers, be certain their experts are the absolute best and that they can answer any questions about your business intelligence technology, as well as BI strategies in general. They should also have the inherent teaching ability needed to maximize a user’s business intelligence knowledge, thus increasing the quality of the user’s results and overall BI aptitude.
Flexible – Companies that offer this new support model should be able to serve companies of all shapes, sizes and business cultures – from small organizations and individual users, to large corporations with hundreds of users. They should also have the flexibility to easily connect with your users through multiple channels – chat, phone or in-person – to answer any questions and provide training on demand.
Productive – The support provider should provide effective, ongoing training and mentorship that creates more productive users, which in turn makes your operations more efficient. The provider should also help you decrease work for your IT department while increasing the available time for developing strategic BI initiatives, rather than resolving support issues.
Affordable – Preferred providers should offer an affordable pricing alternative to traditional business models. If a firm meets the criteria listed above, then they should be able to offer a subscription-based approach at a mere fraction of the cost of traditional training methods. Ideally, this “Consulting-as-a-Service” (CaaS) model would offer unlimited interactions with seasoned BI professionals during the first year after a BI technology implementation.
Greater User Adoption and ROIThis new support paradigm will create more knowledgeable users that understand how to properly manipulate the business intelligence tools at their disposal, thus making them more efficient and productive. That productivity leads to increased user adoption, lower IT and operational costs, a better return on your BI technology investment, and greater overall success for your company.
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