The TOFU (Top of Funnel Users) Approach to Business Intelligence

An interesting article in entitled, “Why Top Of The Funnel BI Will Drive The Next Wave Of Adoption”, written by Dan Woods, sparked some great conversations about bottom of the funnel users (20-30% wanting specific business information), and Top of Funnel Users (or TOFU) that want to interact with information in a personalized way and express their interests. I was fortunate to have Matt Milella, Director of Product Development for Oracle Business Intelligence Mobile Apps, and Jacques Vigeant, Product Strategy Director for Oracle Business Intelligence & Enterprise Performance Management, join me for a podcast to discuss their opinions about “The TOFU approach to business intelligence (BI)”.

Jacques explained that the article is basically about how BI has historically focused on what we refer to as the ‘business analyst’ or the ‘power user’. That’s the person in a company that has the unenviable task of analyzing data, finding trends, and synthesizing data into dashboards that he/she then shares with management.  The common thinking, in BI companies, is that roughly 20% of the users prepare data that the ‘rest of us’ consume. There are many practical and technical reasons why BI started using this model 30 years ago, but the world of technology has come a long way since then.  Today, the  average user can do much more with much less help from IT.

The problem, that Matt and Jacques have witnessed over the last decade, is that BI companies (including Oracle) have mostly catered to the data preparation people (or power users)by adding more and more wiz/bang features and super sophisticated visualizations that are not useful to the average employee (who is not a Power User) or lower level line manager.

So, how has the situation changed? Jacques explained that he and Matt are constantly amazed at the sophistication and elegance of apps that are now out there for public consumption, and they are seeing BI surface in those consumer apps. “There are products like Google Now and even native features on my new phone that blow me away at how they blend Information about “ME” with what I’m doing,” said Jacques.  He told us that his new phone actually knows when he is watching TV and automatically shows him information about the show that is currently on - without the need for even starting an app.  This, of course begs the question --Why can’t our “BI” do this for everyone providing a little insight throughout the day to help them make better informed decisions?  In fact, Jacques thinks we can.

How are Top of Funnel Users different? They often use mobile technology to get current information exactly when they need it. Traditionally, these users did not directly consume BI content.  However , top of funnel users are now accustomed to an experience on the mobile device where they get simple information in a timely fashion.  Matt gave a personal example to emphasize the point.  “ I am a fitness nut and I have a device called a Fit Bit. With this device I can tell how many steps or stairs I took and how it compares to days past.  And with Google now, I know if there will be heavy traffic on the way home from work.”  This kind of information is in line with what Top of Funnel Users want from BI.  Here are more examples. On the way to a warehouse, a plant manager wants to know about shortages that may impact the production line.  A marketing exec wants to know how their brand is trending (up or down) on social media.  These users are not analysts or data scientists, yet they crave the information!

How is Oracle enabling the TOFU experience ? According to Matt, most people understand search, voice activated commands and data retrieval, notification and a simplified experience already, so why should they consume BI any differently?  Jacques gave a great example. “We want to help you relate your corporate data to your work life. So for example , on your mobile device you have email and your calendar. If I’m a sales rep, and I’m in Dallas, and I have a meeting with Verizon in 30 minutes, why isn’t my device giving me sales metrics about Verizon, the number of open support calls, and Verizon’s order status.   The mobile device, especially the phone, is key to understanding the user’s personal context – and, at the end of the day,  Matt and I are trying to make BI that personal !”

Matt and Jacques both feel that focusing on mobile delivery of information is how to satisfy the 80% or the TOFU. Gartner and other analysts agree.  Mobile expands the user base and this will likely be the dominant channel for BI in just a few years.  

So why is the desktop taking a back seat for Top of Funnel Users? Jacques told us that the desktop is not going anywhere, but on the mobile side there are unique capabilities that are simply not available on the desktop. For example,

• A desktop is often shared between users, a phone is not.
• A phone is pretty much ALWAYS on and with you … a desktop is not 
• A mobile device provides precise information about where you are physically, even when you are moving around
• A mobile device’s  Calendar, Email and Contact information is accessible via standard APIs.  This is incredibly useful information when you are trying to understand who and what your target user might be interested in. This information is simply not available in the same way on the desktop.

To summarize, Jacques and Matt emphasized three main things:

• There is a team at Oracle that is not focused on the technical 20% of the users that create the BI data (bottom of the funnel), but the 80% of those that browse and consume BI data in new exciting ways (top of the funnel). The 20% will still continue to receive their due attention, but mobile is now becoming important too.
• Mobile capabilities provide a few things really well for BI that will satisfy a large audience – the 80%
• Mobile, regardless of features provided, is the future. Mobile will become the dominant channel to BI.

To listen to the entire podcast, click here,
To learn more about Business Intelligence and mobile Business Intelligence, click here.

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« November 2015