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Social and Collaborative Business Intelligence delivering ROI

by Lachlan James, Communications Officer, YellowfinbiMonday, January 17, 2011

Without a decision, Business Intelligence (BI) has no Return on Investment (ROI).  Previously, users have been constrained in their ability to use their BI tool to make data-based business decisions.  Now, this situation is changing.

The merging of BI and Web 2.0 technologies has given rise to the new concept of Social and Collaborative BI – a type of collaborative decision-making (CDM) platform.  This platform, like social Web 2.0 technologies, is designed around the premise that anyone should be able to share content and contribute to discussion, anywhere and anytime.

IDC predicts that 2011 will be the year where the trend of embedding social media style features into BI solutions will make its mark, and that virtually all types of business applications will undergo a fundamental transformation.

IDC, along with many other analytics firms, also believes the emerging CDM software market will grow quickly, forecasting revenues of nearly $2 billion by 2014, with a compound annual growth rate of 38.2 percent between 2009 and 2014.

Yellowfin is at the forefront of this re-design of the corporate communications process.  Yellowfin has developed integrated social-networking capabilities that drastically boost ROI for BI.  Yellowfin is bridging the gap between insight and action.

Benefits and potential

The concept of Social and Collaborative BI has been hailed by many as the answer to the persistent problem that, despite increasing investment in BI, many organizations are failing to utilize reporting and analytics effectively and continue to make poor business decisions, resulting in low ROI.

Speaking at the 2010 Microsoft Business Intelligence Conference, Rita Sallam,
a research director and BI analyst with Stamford, said that despite the improvement in BI reporting and analytics capabilities, inadequate decision-making processes meant that organizations were still failing to harness the true power of their BI tools.

“We see a real gap between the level of information in Business Intelligence and the quality and transparency of decision making,” she said.

Gartner predicts that CDM platforms will stimulate a new approach to complex decision-making by linking the information and reports gleaned from BI software with the latest social media collaboration tools.  The potential is exciting and nothing short of transformational.

So what are the crucial components that make up a Social and Collaborative BI platform and facilitate pervasive sharing, discussion and fact-based decision-making?

Defining Social and Collaborative BI

There are three major functions that combine together to enable effective enterprise collaboration and networking around reporting and analytics and form the basis of a CDM platform.  These are the ability to:

  • Discuss and overlay knowledge on business data;
  • Share knowledge and content;
  • Collectively decide the best course of action.

Discussing and overlaying knowledge on business data

Most decision-making and discussion surrounding business processes occurs outside organizational BI platforms, opening a gap between human insight and the business data itself.  Business decisions should be made alongside business data to ensure steadfast, fact-based decision-making. 

Business users must be able to discuss the results of data analysis on an open-access forum to connect the right people with the right data, and allow users to overlay human knowledge, insight and provide context to the data in reports. 

Yellowfin’s inbuilt discussion forum introduces a profound shift in the way a BI solution supports collaboration.  Yellowfin Collaboration – a web-based discussion forum within Yellowfin itself – allows users to create and participate in real-time threaded conversations around reporting and analytics from inside or outside the company.  Users can embed reports and other contextual information in threaded conversations, and add annotations, to further explain patterns and trends in the data.  Conversations can be centered on a single report or entire discussion topic.

A social layer within a BI solution improves the efficiency of business interaction regarding reporting and analytics compared to traditional avenues of communication such as faxes, phone calls and face-to-face meetings by:

  • Being recordable: Conversations are automatically recorded, creating a searchable history of all interaction, eliminating unnecessarily revisiting points previously made
  • Eliminating logistical hurdles: The need for complex and costly travel arrangements is significantly reduced, with geographically dispersed stakeholders able to participate in the exchange of information faster
  • Enabling all relevant stakeholders to participate: All relevant stakeholders can contribute to discussion at their convenience

Without a single easy-access forum to facilitate ordered discussion and record comments, the decision-making process becomes burdensome, unrepeatable for future planning, and so labor intensive that more resources are spent making a decision than acting on it.  A single open-access forum within a BI tool connects knowledge with data, and makes for a more efficient decision-making process, leading to better and faster decisions.

Sharing knowledge and content

The value of information resides in its ability to be shared.  Social media platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook, are designed around the concept of sharing content across networks.  Socially, these networks may be based around friendship groups or topics of interest.  In the enterprise, information sharing provides a cross-departmental bridge to eliminate organizational knowledge silos, and close the gap between technical experts and business decision-makers.  A Social BI platform must support the ability to share data and insights wherever they are required, and in a manner that suits individual circumstance.

Yellowfin supports new-generation knowledge sharing capabilities, moving well beyond the basic capacity to email reports or direct links. With Yellowfin, you can embed reports into blogs, wiki’s, and portals via web services API, or the easy to use YouTube style embeddable widget – Yellowfin Connect.

Collectively deciding the best course of action

Corporate collaboration and knowledge-sharing platforms borrow many of their components from popular social networking platforms, although, there’s one important difference.

Most social media platforms are designed around the individual, allowing for individual knowledge sharing and participation.  They are not designed for, and do not facilitate, consensus and decision-making.  There’s no bridge between insight and action.

The usefulness of Social BI at the enterprise level rests entirely on the ability to reach appropriate and timely decisions.  For corporate discussion forums to be successful, they must include a mechanism for deciding, such as voting or polling, to help push conversation towards a specific, measurable and desirable course of action.

Yellowfin’s integrated discussion forum includes decision widgets that support the transition between discussion and decision, allowing users to collaborate and make meaningful business decisions based on their data analysis, providing a clear pathway to better fact-based decision-making and ROI for BI projects.

What basic technology factors are needed to underpin enterprise CDM?

To facilitate effective enterprise CDM around BI, from a technical perspective, a Social BI platform needs to be:

  • Easy to use: CDM software must follow the Web 2.0 self-service mindset – help yourself and each other.  The collaborative component(s) within the BI solution must cater for a diversity of user ability and skill levels.  If only select users are comfortable and capable of using the collaborative functionality, knowledge and insight will remain siloed and departmentalized, defeating the purpose of an open-access enterprise collaborative forum.
  • Fully integrated: Users must be able to discuss their analysis alongside their BI content.  Picture this scenario: You’re using your BI tool to search for data on last month’s sales results from the Americas.  You find a startling anomaly – sales have skyrocketed compared to previous months. Why? What has been done differently? How can you replicate the results?  If the CDM platform is within the BI tool, you can immediately start the investigation, inviting others into the conversation in full view of the data.  There’s no need to set up meetings and discussions in isolation from your data set.  The collaborative process remains clearly documented in a single open-access space, and discussion remains on topic – the underlying information (data) is right there.  To enable successful CDM, both your collaborative platform and information should be in the one place.
  • Web-based: Lastly, the collaborative platform must be Web-based to allow all relevant stakeholders to follow and contribute to discussion as it unfolds, regardless of location, time difference or device used to access it.


Yellowfin is currently the only BI solution on the market that offers a complete CDM module straight ‘out-of-the-box’.

The collaborative components within Yellowfin are designed to help organizations spread fact-based decision-making throughout the enterprise.  Yellowfin creates a business environment that empowers all relevant decision-makers with the ability to use the insight generated through reporting and analytics accurately, maximizing its potential to underpin better, faster decisions and support operational objectives.

Yellowfin’s Social BI components facilitate better, faster, less labor-intensive organization-wide CDM. Yellowfin is making enterprise collaboration easy.

About Yellowfin

Yellowfin is a global BI software provider, that exists to enable users to make meaningful business decisions from accurate analysis of their information stores.

For further media information, interviews, images or product demonstration, please contact:

Lachlan James, Communications Coordinator on +61 03 9090 0454, 0431 835 658 or lachlan.james@yellowfin.bi

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