3 ways to configure a BI portal to meet analytics goals
Have you ever been in a meeting where a few people are referencing one version of a BI report, a couple of other people appear frustrated because they realize they have been working from an outdated version of the same report, and half of the room has never even seen the report at all and are suddenly requesting copies? This is an all-too-common scenario.
In the quest to get everyone on the same page and create a single source of truth for organizations seeking an analytics-driven business culture, a new solution is emerging. BI portals are content management environments where users across an organization can access real-time business intelligence and analytics assets from a single URL. BI portals consolidate analytics and data from various technologies and locations into a central location where users can edit and view, irrespective of technology, and easily collaborate and communicate. BI portals pull analytics to the surface, so they can become more valuable and actionable.
The ideas of efficient knowledge sharing and metrics-driven decision making that BI portals foster sound exciting, but many organizations are grappling with how to fit a BI portal into their existing systems. Common questions are:
My organization has already heavily invested in a general content management system (CMS) that stores PDFs of weekly BI reports. Isn’t that good enough?
Is there a way to integrate data and analytics into my current employee portal rather than invest in a separate system?
CMS tools simply don’t have the power to integrate real-time data and analytics like BI portals. Only BI portals are able to pull and integrate assets and content from team file folders and siloed BI and data tools and consolidate them into one location.
Financial and time investments are a concern for businesses, though, and implementing new technological solutions is often a large effort. However, BI portals are flexible and scalable solutions and can be configured to fit any organization’s needs. When planning for a BI portal, a business should consider what level and type of content to include in the new environment and which type of configuration will support the content needs.
Design a BI portal – 3 possible configurations
BI portals are robust systems that can perform an array of complex tasks and integrate with many other popular tools. There are multiple ways to configure a BI portal to fit the needs of an organization, but here are 3 possible scenarios.
Scenario 1 – Analytics hub
If the goal is to consolidate analytics assets so they can be visible and accessible to more users, then a BI portal is the right solution. No more sharing pdfs of BI reports through email; no more sifting through SharePoint or Dropbox folders to find the right version of a report. If a user needs real-time data and analytics, the BI portal is where they go. Depending on permissions, a user can edit a dashboard from within the BI portal, and an internal chat application encourages user engagement and team conversation about the data. This type of BI portal is not aiming to replace existing general content management systems but is solely focused on bringing together disparate BI dashboards and data files.
Scenario 2 – Analytics-focused gateway
This configuration takes the analytics hub from scenario 1 and adds the ability to navigate from the BI portal homepage to external content located in other systems, such as a CMS or employee portal. In essence, this type of configuration elevates the BI portal from a hub with a specific function to a gateway to all content. This BI “gateway” provides a hybrid solution where analytics rise to primary focus, but existing and external content systems can be linked.
Scenario 3 – One-stop insights portal
Now it’s time to flip the script. Instead of wondering how to fit analytics integration into an existing general CMS, what if the BI portal also becomes a general CMS? A BI portal is powerful enough to be used as a one-stop destination for accessing and organizing all content. Unlike a general CMS, a BI portal allows users to see and interact with real-time analytics first from their homepage view. From there, users can view all of the related and supporting content and conversations directly. Configuring this type of BI portal may seem to require more upfront time and effort, but existing, out-of-the-box tools are available to streamline configuration. For organizations that are uber-focused on data and analytics, this type of solution eliminates the clunky, patchwork of systems of the past and creates an optimized solution where all insights, supporting content, and relevant conversations for a project exist in the same location and can be easily and quickly leveraged to make business decisions.
No matter which BI portal configuration is chosen, the number one priority for any portal is to create a usable and engaging solution by investing in upfront user experience (UX) design. UX forethought will ensure engaging interactions and simple and usable navigation. The goal of any BI portal should be to serve the whole person, and not just the analytics function of their role.
During the UX research and design process, user personas will be developed and an inventory of content and assets will be taken. Those pieces will guide the development of the site architecture, but will also be essential for determining permissions for each user. For example, executives should have access to all content on the BI portal, but other users may only be able to see insights relevant to their teams. While the point of a BI portal is to make insights more accessible across an organization, it should also consider that some content is sensitive and may need protections. Also, while the BI portal is powerful enough to allow users to edit dashboards internally, for some users, read-only privileges may be necessary to protect the integrity of the assets.
Determine features and content
BI portals don’t have to be all analytics all of the time. BI dashboards are the primary focus, but, in order to keep the portal continuously engaging for a broad audience, it is important to include other features to promote collaboration and interest. Here are some features and content to consider:
• Communications tool – Conversations around data and insights should reside alongside content so that users full understanding of each topic or project. BI portals can include an internal chat application or integrate external tools, such as Slack.
• Discoverability features – A user’s ability to find content will determine whether that user will continue to engage with the tool. The portal should have a robust search feature and also allow users to tag and filter content in a way that makes the portal more usable to them.
• Shared spaces – BI portals can also host team project sites, shared calendars, project timelines, etc. The shared space can be built into the portal or can link to an already-established external sites.
• Social connection – Embed business Twitter and LinkedIn feeds into the BI portal to increase user connection to the business as a whole.
• Training materials – It should be simple for users to find training documentation and videos within the BI portal.
BI portals are charting new territory at an intersection of knowledge management and content management. They are mighty enough to integrate and support the complex tools that crunch data and allow businesses to communicate and collaborate more efficiently. They are flexible enough to customize to fit the needs of any business and allow for future scaling. They also question our traditional methods of organizing and storing content. Whether a BI portal is leveraged for an analytics hub, a gateway to all content or a one-stop destination for all insights and content, these portals allow organizations to evolve to become insight-driven in their operations and decision-making.