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How one CIO guaranteed the use of BI dashboards

The crew at outdoor apparel and accessory retailer Eastern Mountain Sports knows a thing or two about motivation. They are guides, not employees, after all, who traverse mountains themselves. But since introducing Information Builders’ BI dashboards across its 64 stores, competition has kicked up a notch.

Several new contests or “face-offs” between stores have popped up since real-time sales stats made a debut on BI dashboards for all to see. Now, there are also best-place sales competitions among guides, stores and distribution managers.

But this level of competition may not have happened if Eastern Mountain Sports CIO Jeff Neville — backed by the CEO — hadn’t made the use of BI dashboards a corporate mandate.

“From the CEO on down, we have made [the dashboards] a system of record,” Neville said during a case study panel at last week’s Gartner Business Intelligence Summit in Las Vegas. “If [employees] want to see a meeting agenda, or any corporate data, they have to use it.”

It’s an interesting approach, given that so many companies are trying to figure out how to get users to embrace BI in general. The percentage of enterprise users actually using BI tools is only 28%, according to Gartner. But this figure might be closer to 15% or 20%, estimated Gartner analyst Kurt Schlegel during a session on emerging business intelligence tools.

Other approaches I’ve seen for boosting BI user adoption: using Excel as a front-end interface to a BI platform, since so many employees use Excel anyway, or introducing tools that are more visually stimulating, such as QlickView.

Any way you slice and dice BI data, it won’t mean much if users aren’t motivated in some way to use them.

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