BI holds tremendous potential

Few would deny that business intelligence solutions hold tremendous value for organizations of all kinds. By leveraging these tools, firms can transform raw information that would otherwise prove unusable into valuable, actionable insight. 

This isn't limited to the private sector. Countless public sector organizations, including virtually every federal and state government agency, possess a huge amount of data that is ripe for BI applications, and are collecting more information every day. Yet despite this potential, the fact remains that BI is widely underutilized in both the public sector and beyond. By adopting more proactive, committed approaches to advanced BI strategies, organizations could improve operations across the board. 

Cloud considerations
One of the most noteworthy examples of BI's underutilization can be found in the realm of cloud computing. Cloud-based BI offers a number of significant advantages over on-premise alternatives. By shifting these operations into hosted environments, organizations can ensure that all authorized personnel have access to relevant data and results at any given time, regardless of their physical locations. This encourages self-service, which is far more efficient and productive than a system that relies on the IT department to handle the bulk of BI projects in their entirety. 

"While cloud-based BI is growing in popularity, adoption still remains fairly low."

But while cloud-based BI is growing in popularity, adoption still remains fairly low. A recent survey from Dresner Advisory Services of 775 organizations found that more than half now utilize or are planning to deploy these types of solutions. This marked a noteworthy increase from the previous year, but still represents a relatively low percentage, considering the benefits that cloud-based BI can deliver. 

While the Dresner report does not dive into government specifically, these findings seem in line with broader trends suggesting slow adoption of cloud solutions in the public sector. A Gartner survey of CIOs from around the world, including 343 government CIOs, found that agencies continue to rely heavily on legacy solutions, rather than cloud-based offerings. This tendency prevents government agencies from taking advantage of more advanced, effective solutions – including cloud-based BI.

Emphasizing the end users
Another key issue is the fact that in most organizations, only a relatively small spectrum of the workforce actually utilizes the technology. According to Information Management, only about 20 percent of business users within a given firm actually leverage BI resources. 

"In an ideal scenario BI will provide insight and guidance for a huge range of personnel."

For a government organization, this level of use severely limits the potential utility that BI has to offer. After all, in an ideal scenario BI will provide insight and guidance for a huge range of personnel within a given firm, helping to improve decision-making in just about every capacity. This cannot happen if only a small minority of personnel actively engage with the available BI resources. 

Improving performance
There are a number of factors preventing government agencies and other organizations from fully capitalizing on BI solutions. Speaking to Information Management Glen Rabie, CEO of Yellowfin, pointed out that part of the problem is BI experts overestimating how inherently invested and interested in big data the typical user will be. The fact of the matter is that BI does not automatically appeal to every employee within a given firm, be it a privately owned company or federal agency. 

Fortunately, it is very possible for government decision-makers to overcome these hurdles and increase the value that BI delivers for their operations. To this end, it's imperative to develop BI solutions that are extremely focused and easy to use. 

Consider, for example, the question of visualization. For a BI system to deliver value to end users, these individuals – including those without much BI experience – must be able to easily comprehend the results that the BI solution produced. For this to be the case, the BI service needs to have the ability to deliver graphical user interfaces that are easily comprehensible to non-experts. Critically, the nature of this visualization should vary from agency to agency, as one particular display may be ideal for some personnel but not others. This suggests that firms should partner with high-end BI service providers.

Similarly, agencies would benefit from working with cloud integration specialists as they strive to take greater advantage of hosted BI solutions. With expert-level guidance and design offerings, federal organizations will be much better able to move ahead with government-wide cloud adoption initiatives, including cloud-based BI implementation.