A research paper by renowned consultancy Aberdeen Group reveals that “[data] complexity is often best answered with simplicity”. Several new surveys conducted by the group reveal some interesting findings with regards to the costs and benefits of using an integrated tool for data preparation, querying and visualization, as opposed to the “assembly line” approach of dividing these tasks between various proprietary DW, ETL and visualization tools.
The main finding is that simplicity drives analytical success: organizations that use a single, integrated solution were twice as likely to report improved organic revenue, operating profit and discoverable data year-over-year. These types of organizations were almost much more likely to report higher rates of user satisfaction with the ease-of-use for existing analytical tools.
Takeaway #1: The Challenge is More Data and More Sources
We’ve written several times before about the challenges of data complexity, so we will suffice to present the Aberdeen Group’s findings in brief:
- 93% of organizations surveyed experienced significant data growth over the past year
- The average users of business intelligence tools engage 30 unique data sources on a regular basis
- Over 40% of respondents reported needing to analyze unstructured data from internal or external sources
As research analyst Peter Krensky writes, “Larger datasets can offer deeper and more impactful insights, but also create strain on the analytical tools and user skillset… Numerous disparate data sources present challenges for analytical efforts as data needs to be profiled, cleansed and integrated in preparation for analysis. Data preparation can be enormously time consuming and ties up valuable IT resources. As time goes on, users will engage all these sources more frequently and seek to analyze greater data volumes.”
So – how do top performing organizations rise up to the challenge of complex data?
Takeaway #2: The Best-in-Class Keep It Simple
The Aberdeen Group analysts defines best-in-class organizations as the top 20% of organizations that show improved revenue, operating profit and utilization of data on a yearly basis, compared to the industry average. When it comes to these top performers, the research came to some truly staggering conclusions:
- Top performers showed a clear tendency to choose a single software solution for data preparation, analysis (discovery), and visualization.
- Using a single tool simplifies the entire process of driving value from data, from data collection and preparation through to analysis and presentation – among other factors, due to the fact that users don’t have to wait on IT to perform mundane data task and thus have easier access and ability to act on their data.
- Simplification also drives increased user satisfaction, with top performers reporting over twice as many users per capita who are satisfied with the ease-of-use of their analytical tools.
“Top performers invest in tools with features, like drag-and-drop interfaces, to make robust data engagement possible for all users, regardless of background. A simple interface and intuitive functionality mitigates the need for coding and IT assistance… While the best-in-class are leading the way, there is still plenty of room for improvement in satisfaction with ease-of-use. All organization can benefit from a simplified approach to analytics in the line of business.”
Takeaway #3: Simple Analytics Lead to Successful BI Deployments
We’ve seen that the topmost organizations show a tendency to choose a single BI tool for all their analytical needs – but are they seeing results? According to the research, the answer is yes as survey respondents using these types of tools reported higher levels of analytical activity in finance, sales, marketing, customer service and corporate management.
Using a single solution helps organizations avoid many of the common BI pitfalls, such as the forecasted costs spiraling out of control due to the unforeseen costs of deploying and maintaining a broad range of tools which need to work in unison to provide for analytical access to data, as well as users becoming frustrated with their inability to reach actionable conclusions independently.
These and other factors could definitely go a long way towards explaining the increased pervasive analytical activities in organizations that take the single-stack approach, as can be seen in above chart – with users of these tools achieving insight within the decision window 20% more often than all other users.
Takeaway #4: Complex Data, If Handled Correctly, Drives Value
As the research demonstrates, top performing companies have found ways to enable broad access to data for users across business departments, and as a result report increased analytical usage of data as well as higher rates of user satisfaction with the BI tools in place. To quote the Aberdeen Group once again:
“Complex data should be an asset, not an obstacle. Organizations facing challenges executing successful analytics with their current toolset can turn to the best practices of top performers for guidance….. Best-in-Class organizations demonstrate the emerging best practices of a single solution for data prep, analysis, and visualization that is easy to use. Adopting such tools enables individuals of all skill levels to effectively engage large data volumes culled from disparate sources. Organizations should answer the challenge of data complexity with simplicity to empower the line of business and promote data-driven decision making.”
Get the full Aberdeen Group research to find out:
- complete research methodology and results
- Most frequently used data sources
- Common best practices applied by top organizations