Thoughts on BI User Adoption: Part 1

Submitted on: Tue, 02.10.2015 03:05am - Nick Matras |


I’ve worked in the business analytics software industry for most of my career. While much of my time has been spent in the healthcare market, I have found many parallels between healthcare and distribution when it comes to getting the most out of your investment in business intelligence software.

MITS Distributor Analytics is a powerful business intelligence (BI) tool that can change the trajectory of your company. But as with any tool, software or otherwise, it won’t help you if you don’t use it.

A question that periodically comes up in my conversations with distributors is, how will we get people to use MITS? This concern arises from a number of factors. Do any of these sound familiar to you?

  • "Many of our employees are not comfortable using computer software."
  • "Our people don’t have time to use it."
  • "Most of our sales reps work remotely, from home or out in the field."
  • "We’ve tried implementing other software before but our people wouldn’t use it."

Adoption [uh-dop-shun n.]: the act or process of beginning to use something new or different.

User adoption considerations should be part of every software implementation plan. This becomes even more important with BI software because while these tools can help people work more effectively, whether people use them is often left to individual choice. Contrast this with other systems, such as an ERP, which are required for performing the work processes in a distribution company.

In order for a BI tool (like MITS) to succeed, it can’t be seen as one more thing people have to do or make time for. It should provide people with easy access to relevant and useful information that helps them do their job more effectively, while also making the company more profitable and successful. It might be something people review at the start of their day or beginning of the week, or before they talk with a customer or vendor. It should alert them when exceptions occur, like when a sales order is generated that contains a zero price or a low margin, or when a product is returned.

MITS president Gary Owen spoke about this very topic at a major distribution conference last year. If you haven’t seen it here’s a link to the video on Distributors & Big Data. Gary talks about how the concept of big data applies to distributors and in the process he makes a compelling case for the importance of BI in wholesale distribution.

I believe there are three fundamental questions we need to consider when thinking about user adoption.

  • Who could benefit from BI and be a prospective user?
  • What type of information do they need or want?
  • How do they want to access and consume the information?

Who Would Benefit From BI?

So how do we identify who could benefit from BI and be a prospective user? Originally, BI was intended primarily for use by the sales organization but it’s evolved into much more. However, I find some distributors still define the scope for BI in their companies much too narrowly.  In addition to sales reps, BI solutions like MITS are designed for senior management, sales managers, warehouse or location managers, buyers, PO writers, inventory managers, and accounts receivable staff, among others.

Typically, companies that get the biggest return from BI provide broad access to people and departments across their company. Talk with the people throughout your company. Find out what type of information they currently receive and perhaps more importantly, what they would like to have but can’t get. Ask what information could make them more productive and effective in their jobs. You might even create a simple matrix to capture this feedback, including the person’s title and function. Prioritize this feedback, based on criteria that make sense for your business. This list can help guide your roll-out schedule later on.

Making user adoption part of your BI implementation plan is key to a successful result. Think as broadly as possible when identifying prospective BI users and most importantly talk with the people at your company.

In my next post I’ll talk about figuring out what types of information people will need. In the meantime, let me know your thoughts and experience around user adoption