A couple of months ago, I wrote about the #1 Obstacle to BI and Analytics – Ease of Use. There are three other obstacles in this inescapable trend facing product managers and product executives. The focus of this post is #2 – Verticalization.
In a 2011 report on business intelligence adoption, “The Consumerization of BI Drives Greater Adoption,” Gartner says that when a BI platform isn’t tailored to show the relevant information to the right users in an easily understandable and consumable format, users get frustrated and abandon the platform. In other words, if your customers can’t find and use the information they need, they’ll quickly get frustrated and stop using your software.
In the past, the director of supply chain management for an auto parts manufacturer, the CFO of a hospital, and the marketing manager of a cosmetics company have all been given the same generic BI solution with only a customized report to make it applicable to their unique role. In many cases, a specialist was assigned to help these people get the results they needed. That has been the accepted mode of operation, but arguably it never delivered the full vision of actionable intelligence for all. Now with even more data to draw upon, we need to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past. To deliver the value of these systems to organizations and end users, analytics solutions must be customized for the specific target audience. This might mean customization across categories of enterprise software, vertical markets, business disciplines, levels within the organization, even for combinations of those things.
The right context = effective data delivery
Product managers must develop a deep understanding of who their users are, what their objectives are, and what results they need to get their job done. Solutions need to consider how and when the results are delivered. Is it in a standard desktop PC environment, on a smartphone or tablet, during office hours or in the evening, in an airport or taxicab? Understanding the context allows the information to be delivered in the most effective way possible.
An example of the success of this approach is Dimensional Insight, a provider of Business Intelligence and performance management software with a focus on the healthcare market. For over two decades, Dimensional Insight has worked with hospitals across the US to harvest data from multiple systems into interactive reports, dashboards, scorecards, and analytical tools. Clinical, quality, operations, and financial departments rely on the resulting timely access to data to drive improvements. This focus has resulted in Dimensional Insight’s winning the 2011 Best in KLAS awards for Software and Services for BI / Reporting, ranked ahead of large players IBM Cognos and SAP BusinessObjects.1 They may be a small company, but Dimensional Insight has carved out a market by tailoring their offering to their vertical, and the result is that they outshine the big players in their niche. One of the reasons for their success is that they began from the customer’s workflow and developed their product from there instead of taking a generic product and customizing it.
This is the first in a series of 10 posts.
Today’s product managers know it’s their job to be in tune with the market and with real-world users. More and more, they turn to user research techniques like customer interviews, focus groups, analytics, personas and prototyping to discover what customers want next from their products. Managers from companies like Apple, SalesForce.com, and SAP, who incorporate user research into their development cycles have consistently released software that sets a new bar in the industry, so won’t these techniques benefit everyone?
UNFORTUNATELY, USER RESEARCH IS RIFE WITH PITFALLS. Often what customers say they want and what they really need are very different. Surveys, focus groups, and analytics can be misleading. And even if you do glean the correct insights from your research, incorporating the results into the next product release can be even more of a challenge. In this series, I'll identify ten of the most common errors that product managers and business analysts make when gathering user research and customer feedback, and explain how to avoid them.
But We Asked Users What They Want!
HAVE YOU SEEN THE EPISODE OF THE SIMPSONS where Homer’s long-lost brother, who owns a car company, instructs his engineers to design a car that average people want by getting input from Homer — the typical middle American customer? Homer demands extra large cup-holders, tail fins, a bubble dome, and horns that play La Cucaracha. The car is an expensive flop, and his brother’s company goes bankrupt.
Ready or not, Windows 8 is here.
Coming with it is Microsoft’s soon-to-be-released new design language called ‘Metro.’ Metro’s been around for a while, but in Windows 8, it makes the jump from touch-screen interface to the desktop.
Metro changes the landscape for developers, giving them a true, touch-optimized design language for Windows applications. With Metro comes strict behaviour and visual guidelines, some of which are based on User-Centered Design principles.
The visual guidelines are pretty clear and teams could concentrate on those to create apps. By doing this, they would end up with apps that look just like Metro apps, but if your team doesn’t also follow the behaviour guidelines, your app won’t have the Metro DNA. And Microsoft will enforce their behaviour guidelines through their Windows Store review process.
So, if you want to create an app using the Metro design language, your team will be following these five steps:
- Create a ‘Best at’ statement;
- Choose the right scenarios;
- Pick a navigation pattern;
- Lay out the content; and
- Create app bars.
To find out more about these five steps, read the full article.
I love technology, and at the same time, I'm not one to fall head over heels for shiny new tech. Technologies often go through an initial hype cycle, then either fall off the earth or settle into a steady growth while the world catches up. I always remember something that my colleague Fred (Macadamian's CEO) told me years ago during the dot-com bubble - "we tend to drastically overestimate the impact of an innovation in the short term, and drastically underestimate it in the log run.
Every once and a while though, a technology comes along that actually lives up to the hype. In the past few months, we've been working with network equipment companies and with network operators to create concepts and working prototypes to help envision how WebRTC will change enterprise and consumer communication. About halfway through our first brainstorming meeting, I had one of those "wow, this changes everything" moments.
This changes everything. Video and voice chat inside the browser hasn't really taken off because it's difficult and expensive to implement, and it's challenging to convince customers to install the plug-ins or clients required. A few years ago eBay paid a substantial amount of money for Skype to improve communication between sellers and buyers. It never really took off, maybe because Skype, at the time, wasn't completely ubiquitous.
A couple of months ago, we created a demo app for the new BlackBerry 10. Our immediate goal was to show just how quickly you could create rich applications on BB10 in really short periods of time (in our case, under two weeks, idea to finish). Our higher-level goal though was to give people a peek into the future of Enterprise Apps, and change people's thinking about what Enterprise Apps can be - interactive, action oriented, visual, and small.
To date, most enterprise mobile apps provide basic access to enterprise systems - the ability to look up a contact in a CRM system, for example, or approve a work order while on the road. While some look and feel better than others, they are mostly text-driven, data intensive apps.
What if an enterprise smartphone app could help you visualize an aspect of how your business is doing, and help you make faster decisions?
In virtually every business, a large part of your success hinges on your ability to have access to the right data at the right time, be able to analyze it and spot trends and make quick decisions. That's why CIOs spend (billions?) each year on business intelligence and analytics tools. As the increasing popularity of infographics show us, people are visual thinkers, and visualizations can help people quickly grasp concepts and trends. At the same time, the GPUs, screen resolutions, and bandwidth available on smartphones and tablets gets better each passing month.