How do companies actually use Business Intelligence (B.I.)? That’s an increasingly important question, considering the rising amount of money spent every year on B.I. software. According to a new survey by Howard Dresner, a majority of businesses see B.I. as an important, if not critical, part of their daily operations. That survey queried 1,182 participants from a variety of large, midsize and small organizations (the split was 26 percent large companies, 42 percent midsize, and 32 percent small), and focused much of its attention on the collaborative frameworks used for exchanging business intelligence. Whether collaborating with internal people (a favorite of big organizations) or communicating with outside groups or contractors (the tendency of smaller firms), the respondents generally wanted the ability to “follow BI objects” and see colleagues’ input on information and interactions. Of those collaborative frameworks, Microsoft Sharepoint ranked first (and was in use primarily by large organizations), followed by Dropbox and Google Docs (relied upon by small to midsize organizations), with Salesforce Chatter in fourth. While collaborative tools are a significant element of most B.I. platforms on the market, the majority of vendors don’t actually charge for them—although sharing and annotations are some of the most-used functions by employees. Far fewer collaborative platforms are capable of interoperating with competing products on an advanced level. “I believe organizations can really benefit from this technology, but embracing collaborative technologies requires having a collaborative corporate culture,” Dresner wrote in the blog posting that accompanied the data. “And this is not limited to business intelligence processes; it must be pervasive in everything the organization does.” But organizations still need to train workers to collaborate in the most effective manner—sending the information to the right people, for example, instead of just e-bombing whomever’s on a particular list. Another issue is transparency: everybody loves collaboration when it involves seeing what others are doing, but they’re more reluctant to share their own work with a broader audience. “They want everybody else to be held accountable, but they don’t want to be held accountable,” Dresner added. “Transparency must start at the top of the organization and filter down.” In other words, while the market for collaborative B.I. tools might grow exponentially in coming years, companies won’t be able to take full advantage of that software unless they embrace and enact a similarly collaborative culture.   Image: Howard Dresner