There’s a scene in Fight Club where Edward Norton, as the Narrator, has an epiphany about the meaninglessness of life and how pointless his job is. He’s in a meeting where a bunch of suits are droning in the background about some new computer program. The irrelevance of it all is epitomized by one of the suits saying, “Can I see that icon in cornflower blue?”
Sometimes I feel just like Edward Norton when I see competitors in the BI industry bang on about certain “innovations” in their products.
Fonts and colors
Two recent releases that spring to mind are Tableau’s new colors and Qlik’s special font.
Don’t get me wrong. The colors look great. The font’s very readable.
It is the way they trumpeted the arrival of these “innovations” that really caught my attention. Lengthy blog posts about the effort they went through to design their colors and the color sets, the science behind using the default colors. A bunch of fanfare and marketing about how it’s a special font designed just for analytics.
Obviously lots of resources, time and passion went into these projects. They’re proud of them. And that’s great! Vendors should be excited about the products they build – if you don’t love them, why should anybody else?
Guys, they’re just colors. It’s just a font. They’re nice, but there are others just as good. There’s a myriad of fonts out there that will do the same job.
And in any case, many clients have their own color scheme or favorite fonts and they naturally prefer white-labeled products that they can stamp as their own. These vanity innovations are doing nothing to enhance user experience; they reek of ego and self-promotion, done just so the vendor can stamp their brand all over the product. Nice marketing, but does it really help the user have a better interaction with the product?
This is symptomatic of the lack of user focus in the BI market.
Any feature that screams: ‘You are using my product,’ whether it be the logo, the font, the color set or any feature that is difficult for the developer to remove, is in complete antithesis to what organizations really need in BI.
That’s the core problem. We need to check our egos and realize that what we provide is a toolset to help our customers achieve the outcome they want. If that toolset is littered with our artefacts then the customer is not buying what they really need to be successful.
The opportunity for real innovation
When user adoption rates across the industry sit in the low teens, it’s clear that there’s substantial room for real innovation. The best fonts and colors are not going to change the fact that BI today doesn’t work for 85%+ of business users. That’s a huge failure, and a huge opportunity for real innovation.
Instead of tinkering around the edges with fonts and colors, what we as vendors should be doing is concentrating on real innovation in the areas of development and consumption. What building blocks do application developers need to develop apps that business users will use? How does a business user really consume analytics?
We need to work on instant insights for business users so that useful, relevant information extracted from their data is right there on the dashboard or in their report, ready for action. We need to ensure users can interact with data easily and intuitively, which means providing different services to different users. Some may like to type, whilst others prefer to simply ask, “Hey, what were my sales in Europe last year?”
It’s time to stop the vanity projects
It’s time to stop the vanity projects and start putting the time and effort into the things that really matter to the user. As user adoption statistics show, we’ve still got a long way to go as an industry. But to do that, there are some in the industry who really need to check their egos.