Need to create an effective BI system? Think like an end user.

Need to create an effective BI system? Think like an end user.

You have been given your marching orders: “Implement a data warehouse and business intelligence system that can help us analyze the business!”

“What do you want to see?” you ask. And the answer is, of course, “Everything.”

End users will never tell you exactly what they need in order to do their jobs effectively because they generally do not understand what information is available and how it can be visualized (that’s where IT is the expert). So, what’s the solution? Simply put yourself in your end users’ shoes to better understand how BI can help them to better do their jobs.

Walk in their shoes.

Many IT staff and consultants struggle to meet the expectations of their end users. Some get close. But most just produce exactly what their managers, project sponsors, or end users request. While I would never ignore what an end user tells me, I do think it’s helpful to place myself in their role and imagine what their challenges are.

Ask lots of questions.

If I were to take over an end user’s job tomorrow, what information would I need from them, as well as from the BI system, to effectively do their job? I don’t have the end user’s experience or knowledge that they have acquired over years in their position, so how do I get to know what they know? Simple: Ask lots of questions. Not just, “What font do you want on the analytics?” or “Where should the logo be placed?” but real questions, like:

“How are you going to use this information to make decisions?”

“Once you have seen this information, what do you need to see or do to act on it?”

Tap into past experience.

As a principal consultant, I get paid to understand what each individual does on a daily basis. This information is not something that is acquired overnight, but it is something that can be learned over time. To create an effective solution for our clients, I use what I have learned from previous experience, along with my understanding of the organization and roles that project participants play in it, as well as how and why decisions are made. Only then will I add more value than the customer expects.

If you can’t think like the end user, then you will never bring maximum value to any organization.


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