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Is your business intelligence platform paying off?

You've deployed the SAP BusinessObjects business intelligence platform. To ensure that your investment in analytics isn't wasted, track certain metrics to learn if the platform is being used effectively.

You have deployed the SAP BusinessObjects business intelligence platform. But if your target users are not using the BI platform due to frustrations, lack of training or lack of understanding how it can benefit them, then all the time and money you put into business analytics may be wasted.

As such, it's important to ensure that you're monitoring the effectiveness of your analytics. This article provides insights into the metrics you should be monitoring to ensure that your SAP BusinessObjects deployment is being used effectively and that you have the highest possible return on your investment.

Community engagement. First, to ensure that you're providing value to the community for which you're delivering BI, track how much and for what end the community is actually using the BI analytics.

What percentage of your users log into the BI platform every 30 days? Determine how many users are accessing the system to view information and make decisions. If this number is going up, then you're engaging more and more users, which may signify the need to add more processing power. If this number is going down, then fewer users are taking an interest in BI and you need to figure out why.

Who are your most important users? This is good to know for many reasons. If you're going to make significant changes to your deployment, your content or a back-end database, knowing your stakeholders within the community allows you to distribute information about the effect of that change quickly. If you know who the most important users are within each BI community, you may not need to send information about changes to every department or every person; simply inform your stakeholders. You also can use this information to create BI champions.

How does analytic usage within your BI community tie back to departmental or individual productivity? Determine whether those most productive and effective departments and individuals are accessing your BI content more frequently than those not as productive and effective. If there is a correlation, allow those more effective members to educate the rest of their teams or departments on how they are using BI.

BI content use. After determining whether the community is engaged, you need to track what the community is doing with BI. This helps you make decisions about which content is useful versus not useful, when you need to add more processing power, how the BI platform may need to be tuned to handle specific workflows or whether content can be removed.

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When are the busiest times? By knowing when most of your BI community accesses the content, you can more easily plan outages, track how engaged your global community may be, and use these numbers to plan for how your community and usage may be growing or declining.

Can your deployment support more users? More analytics? More scheduled content? These questions are key to determining when you need more processing power. Perhaps you have multiple BI deployments that need to merge into one or your organization has just acquired another organization. You need to know quickly whether your BI platform can support an increased load. Having these numbers and answers available quickly will allow you to be more agile in your planning and execution.

Which of your analytics are most popular? Least popular? Knowing this will help you clean up your content and learn which type of BI content your users want and don't want.

Problematic BI content. Tracking errors, long-running reports, and unstable content or performance is key to ensuring that your BI community remains happy and engaged.

What new content is being created that may affect performance and stability? Proactively tracking reports that have multiple data sources, a large number of rows returned, a large size, or a higher than normal number of formulas makes you aware of potential problems before they arise. Keep a report of all content created in the past 48 hours that meets the above criteria. Email the report to the team of administrators every morning to track down problems before they happen.

Which errors are happening most frequently for both interactive and scheduled content -- and how can you correct them before users become annoyed? Tracking the errors every day helps you solve problems before they become critical.

How long are reports taking to run? Your users don't want to wait for 30 minutes to get their data. Tracking long-running interactive content or schedules proactively allows you to fix those problems before your users even notice.

Rights and security. Ensuring that your data is safe is just as important as providing a stable, functional and well-performing business intelligence platform.

Are users sending confidential information outside of the organization? Are they downloading it to Excel? Some organizations will value this metric more than others. You don't want your financial information, customer information, partner information and other sensitive details getting into the hands of the public or competitors. By tracking who is looking at your content and where they are sending it or downloading it, you can identify security breaches before they become problematic.

What changed in your analytics deployment today versus yesterday? You need to know which users were added each day. New users have access to information now that they didn't before. You also need to know whether new reports are being added that contain sensitive information. If so, are they secured?

Which users have rights to view which content? Knowing which of your users has access to sensitive data is critical to ensuring the safety of your data. You likely have developed a model for protecting your data, but is that model being followed when new data, content and users are added?

Using all these metrics, you'll be able to track how well your user community is engaged with your BI platform and what they are doing with it. Many other metrics could be considered as well. (Examples: Is duplicate content answering the same business question? Which database tables and columns are used the most? If I move this database to a new host, does it affect anyone?) Consider this a starting point for brainstorming how you can use your SAP BusinessObjects BI platform to help answer questions about its effectiveness and whether you're actually seeing a return on your investment in BI.

About the author:
Coy Yonce is principal technical architect at EV Technologies. To learn more about how to track the effectiveness of your analytics platform, check out his blog posts; read about Sherlock, EV Technologies' tool for gathering the above metrics; or read Yonce's latest article in TDWI's Business Intelligence Journal.

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