BI training: 5 ways to get users on your side

BI training is often wearisome for employees. Learn how to make your BI training session appealing to all.

Power users such as top-level managers and analysts may find the efficiency and clarity of business intelligence...

(BI) reports in themselves a reward, but for casual BI users, having to learn a new system is always a pain. The light at the end of the tunnel is that proper BI training can ease the process. Here are 5 ways to get users on your side when deploying BI tools.

1) Set your BI training priorities straight

Any BI training should be founded on the premise that a BI solution means different things to different people. To simplify this, let’s consider three levels of functioning:

i. Transactional level: Data is converted to valuable information. This would be at the level of field officers and sales managers using BI for basic purposes.

ii. Decision making level: Data after conversion to information is used for decision support by senior executives.

iii. Business insight level: There is a need for constant flow of information to support decision-making. Insight is provided through dashboards that help attain strategic goals. This would be utilized by the first line of business executives such as the MD and CEO.

If the BI training is focused only on the top ten percent of the people in the organization, it's a Herculean task to convert it into an operational process.

2) Pitch the benefits of BI training to the organization

The training has to ensure filtration to every level. A sales executive needs to collate 20 hours of data. It should be realized that BI training is extending his capabilities and enabling his tool for increased productivity. Earlier I used to work as the financial planning and accounting (FPnA) head at Xerox. The job was to turn data into decision support. Now I ask my IT team to replace this plethora of reports with a system once and for all. The IT team should pitch BI training as an effort for enablement and ensure it doesn't turn into a tedious task for users.

 

3) Use BI training for change management

The most effective BI training is the one that initiates the users with the process of change. If BI training is worked out to make it look like an IT training, then the game is lost. Even though this may not be a declared best practice, using the following three levels of training may be very effective.

  • BI training level 1: Conduct an awareness session to initiate the business users into the change management process. Let them know the operating basics of the system.
  •  BI training level 2: The users should at this point in time get familiar with the system and should have begun to use it. They will now have a clear understanding of the ‘what and how’ of things. For the next session they will now have valuable feedback to contribute.
  • BI training level 3: This refresher and in-depth session should be conducted after 30 to 60 days after the initial session. During this actual problem solving and troubleshooting will be addressed.

4) Identify champions and provide support

Before, during, and after the BI training, there will be people who, by their own enthusiasm, evangelize the process. The focus should be to lure these to provide local benchmarks for the rest of the users to move up to. These champions will also be the first level of support to the users.

The second level is central support. It will ensure that the request, immediately after placed, is assigned to an expert. By this the expert will be able to address 80% of the problem online.

5) Provide incentives for BI training

To make your BI training successful, incentivize! For this, the ancient Indian methods of persuasion―sama, daana, bheda, danda―may come in handy:

  • Sama or good counsel, means that the user must be persuaded through open and direct means. For this a senior level executive, ideally the CEO, should state the importance of the BI training to the business right at the beginning of the activity.
  • Daana literally means charity; but in this context, it suggests monetary rewards for business users undergoing the BI training.  This, though, has a limited scope of success.
  • Bheda or diplomacy, works well. Induce competition. Use a graph to record the levels of BI training people and departments in the company have completed. This raises awareness, and competition; people will want to rise up with the other people who are rising up the training scale. Use BI to popularize BI.
  • Danda or punishment is another alternative. It may not be greatly effective but may be used for  positive reinforcement. Through a judicious use of Danda for BI training, business users can be motivated to expand their functionalities. The BI training can even help boost their careers.

About the author: 

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V.S. Parthasarathy currently the Group CIO has worked his way through several key positions and initiatives such as CFO, business planning, international operations, policy deployment, strategy, and mergers & acquisitions for the farm equipment sector. Partha has contributed regularly to training and development initiatives as a faculty member in local and regional level programs.

(As told to Sharon D'Souza)

This was last published in March 2011

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