To make data analytics a success, keep the business front and center and engaged with the process. Wayne Eckerson, founder of the BI Leadership Forum, recently spoke with seven exemplary analytics leaders, and distilled their advice in his latest book, "Secrets of Analytical Leaders: Insights from Information Insiders."

Making BI and analytics tools highly accessible and easy to use is an important step to engaging the business in the data analytics process. One of the forward-thinkers in this effort is Darren Taylor, president and COO at Cobalt Talon, a subsidiary of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City (Blue KC). Taylor, who was interviewed by Eckerson in the book, says that at Blue KC, “everyone now understands the importance of analytics.” But it took plenty of hard work and evangelizing to get to that point. He also says Blue KC's top priority now is to move to a self-service BI culture. “We want to get individuals to start using our drillable dashboards instead of asking business analysts to build custom reports for them.”

One way Blue KC is accomplishing this is supporting dashboards on tablet computers, he adds. “Even though we've built equivalent Web and desktop applications, executives perceive that tablet-based applications are easier to use, so they are more willing to experiment and use the functionality.”

Taylor's team is also providing these new BI tools to casual users first—before the power users. “This way, casual users are more apt to learn to use the new tools, since they can't lean on power users to create custom reports for them. This helps break the cycle of dependency and frees power users to do other work.”

Joe McKendrick is an author, consultant, blogger and frequent Insurance Networking News contributor specializing in information technology.

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