This article was originally published in Information Management (Sept 2016 edition)
To a greater or lesser extent, everyone collaborates. I watch my pre-school twins collaborate daily. I listen to the “collaborative creativity” within a jazz ensemble. Yet so often in a work context we operate in silos.
For decades, the silo of choice was the spreadsheet. Today, it’s becoming the data discovery “workbook.” Yet it’s no longer enough to just have meaningful analytics: it’s also about speed.
When Steve Jobs talked about his Macintosh development team at Apple, he talked about “…musicians and poets and artists…” He talked about “trying to expose yourselves to the best things that humans have done.” In other words, getting inspired by the ideas of others. Collaborating.
Consider how musicians collaborate: they predict, perceive, and react to what their fellow musicians do in complex ways. Collaboration is about listening to others and connecting to their emotions or intuitions. Collaborative Business Intelligence is about communicating a story with the data. Communicating the meaning behind the numbers. The numbers are the notes, in time and space. Harmony. Melody. Rhythm.
So what is Collaborative Business Intelligence? According to Howard Dresner, it is “a process where two or more people or organizations work together to develop a common understanding, which is shared and used to build consensus in support of organizational decision making.” Collaborative capabilities include sharing, annotating and co-authoring of business content.
Recent research defines several distinct types or styles of collaboration, including:
- Distributed Collaboration – informal collaborations based on common interests
- Complimentary Collaboration – based on complimentary expertise, knowledge and/or roles
- Integrative Collaboration – collaborative development of a new concept or idea, which no individual could have conceived of on their own
The latter is commonly seen in the context of jazz improvisation, and often in the workplace where Agile principles have been adopted. Development of new ideas, through integrative collaboration, is a powerful way for an organization to foster a culture of Innovation.
It’s the same in a business context. People are at the heart of business. And Collaborative Analytics, or Collaborative Business Intelligence, is about putting the Business into Social.
Annual revenues for vendors in the Collaboration space are predicted to break $4.5 billion by 2016, and the Enterprise Collaboration Market is projected to be worth $70.61 Billion by 2019. That is significant growth.
In fact, recent research shows Social as the fastest growing segment of the Enterprise Collaboration market, with a projected CAGR over 18% – a trend which is projected to continue for several years. This is perhaps unsurprising considering how social and ‘tech savvy’ the workforce is becoming.
Consider how well-versed our teenagers, the next generation of knowledge workers, already are with social concepts, such as Facebook and WhatsApp. In recent product usability testing, we found that a 15-year-old high school student was able to immediately grasp collaborative BI concepts such as sharing and discussing dashboards via integrated chat, with little or no training.
As Howard Dresner commented, “Insight built collaboratively adds value faster and achieves faster consensus and better buy-in.” This in turn can help drive better organizational alignment to strategy and goals. It comes down to inspiring, motivating and empowering business users with a passion to help the organization drive better business outcomes for customers and shareholders.
Imagine the following scenario: members of a finance department are collaborating on a new budget. Having blended data from both internal systems as well as external data (for example, projected interest rates or customer demographic data), they seek feedback and collaboration from other managers in the business. They push a dashboard to an internal ‘community’ of managers on their Enterprise Social Platform, and engage in a dialog with those business users around market sentiment, budget assumptions and so on.
This information is captured in the Collaborative BI system, to provide an audit trail for subsequent decisions. Thus avoiding the perpetual issues with emailing static documents and spreadsheets with cell-reference and other common errors, making governance almost impossible.
So what does this mean for the future? What I expect to see is a trend towards solutions which help organisations get better at measuring outcomes, improving accountability in support of evidence-based decision-making. In recent years, the Business Intelligence market has strayed towards what Gartner Research sometimes refers to as the “wild, wild west” of siloed, ungoverned business data, causing “multiple version of the truth.”
An era of social business solutions powering a more collaborating analytical process would certainly be music to my ears.