Developing analytic apps is a bold new direction for product teams. The Toolbox is where we talk development best practices, tips, tricks, and success stories to help you build the future of analytics and empower your users with the insights and actions they need.

Is your business data-driven? You probably feel like you have to say “yes.” However, if you really are, then you’re in the minority! According to Forrester, 74% of businesses say they want to be data-driven, but only 29% report that they’re effectively connecting insights and actions. That’s the whole point of using analytics in the first place — helping people take the right action based on what the data tells them. 

Apparently, it’s not that easy. Even if you have powerful, useful dashboards set up, the insights you’re capturing might not be making the leap to wherever the actions you need are taking place. Highly interactive data experiences seamlessly integrated into existing applications and workflows are the key to increasing BI adoption and empowering users. But how can you do that? If you want to boost engagement and drive better decisions with embedded analytics, your process will include unraveling your workflow, smashing your dashboard, and simplifying your users’ decisions. Let’s explore what that looks like!

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Unravel user workflows, understand the insights that matter

Think about your day: you do so many tasks you probably struggle to keep them all straight, thus the rise of workplace productivity tools like Hive. Well, if you want to build custom analytics to help empower your teammates in their roles, you’re going to need to understand their workflows. Whenever we talk about building better custom analytics dashboards, we say communication is key. If you’re building actionable analytics, this is also the case

Figure out who in your organization can benefit from actionable analytics and then sit down with them and do whatever it takes to get a real feel for their daily life. Consider a “ridealong” where you spend a day (or however much time you can spare) sitting in with them as they make calls, send emails, consult dashboards, collaborate with other users to make decisions, and ultimately get their work done. Taking notes and asking lots of questions will be vital to this process, as well as noting any and all applications and analytic insights that are part of their daily work. Putting this all together gives you a strong starting point for the custom analytics you’ll build to empower your colleagues. 

“As developers create more experiences related to a company’s data flow, they will begin to enrich the system with analytic apps that reduce the time needed to take actions based on data — actually closing the BI loop.”

– Ron Oren, Head of Sisense Labs

Smash your dashboard: Make insights easier to understand to better tell a story

By this point, you should have a pretty good understanding of your users’ needs: which programs they use every day, what their key insights are, and what their dashboards look like. This could be the scariest part of the process, but now’s the time to bring the hammer down on those dashboards. 

That’s not to say that no one in your organization will ever use a dashboard again! The people who love their dashboards usually really love them. For everyone else, just a few key insights, delivered at the right time and place within the workflow, are all they want. Paired with the ability to take action instantly, custom analytics are a game-changer.

“The idea of custom BI apps is to change the paradigm from monitoring your business to operating your business.”

– Ron Oren

Armed with all the information you gathered from your user interviews and shadowing, you can start creating new, more streamlined workflows that incorporate analytic apps. This will put the right information next to the appropriate actions, bridging the gap from analytics to actions. 

Put insights alongside user actions to enable decision-making

Your custom BI apps journey is coming towards its critical point: Building and deploying your analytic app! User acceptance trials will be a vital part of this phase. Going back to the people you did ride alongs with and asking them to look at your mockups as you build out their custom analytics will help you catch errors and make corrections early in the process.

Once you have a good model built for what you want your custom analytics to look like, you can start building. Sisense BloX and our Embed SDK are designed to help you put the insights you need anywhere you need them. You and your fellow builders will decide which model of embedding works for you, then put the actions you want to take right alongside the insights that users need to make their decisions.

Build a better future

With your actionable analytic apps in their hands, odds are your users will never want to go back to how they were doing things before. 

“The missing piece in BI today is great UX/UI, custom BI apps allow you, the builder, to create a memorable experience that potentially will have a deeper impact on your users.”

– Ron Oren

A smoother experience that seamlessly takes users from insights to actions is the dream of every data-user (which is rapidly becoming every user). If you’re not using custom analytics in your teams’ workflows, now’s the time to empower them and help them make smarter decisions and take the right actions at the right times. The growth of data is impossible to halt or even slow, but you can build solutions that turn the tides of Big Data to your advantage, if you’re bold enough!

BI and Analytics for Developers

Jack Cieslak is a 10-year veteran of the tech world. He’s written for Amazon, CB Insights, and others, on topics ranging from ecommerce and VC investments to crazy product launches and top-secret startup projects.

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