Collaborative decision-making software
Collaborative decision-making (CDM) software is a software application or module that helps making sense of data.
It coordinates the functions and features required to arrive at timely collective decisions, enabling all relevant stakeholders to participate in the process. The core principle of CDM software is that good decisions are not made in isolation in response to an individual’s idea or individual piece of data. They require shared knowledge and analysis of a combination of different pieces of information.
The application of social software in Business Intelligence (BI) to the decision-making process provides a significant opportunity to tie information directly to the decisions made throughout the company.
- 1 CDM and business intelligence
- 2 Benefits and potential
- 3 Components
- 4 Technology factors that underpin enterprise CDM
- 5 CDM modules in the Business Intelligence space
- 6 References
- 7 External links
CDM and business intelligence
In 2009, Social and Collaborative Business Intelligence (BI) emerged as a new subcategory within the BI landscape.
Social and Collaborative BI, a type of CDM software, harnesses the functions and philosophies of social networking and social Web 2.0 technologies, applying them to reporting and analytics at the enterprise level, to facilitate better and faster fact-based decision-making. This platform, like Web 2.0 technologies, is designed around the premise that anyone should be able to share content and contribute to discussion, anywhere and anytime.
IDC predicted that 2011 would be the year where the trend of embedding social media style features into BI solutions would make its mark, and that virtually all types of business applications would undergo a fundamental transformation.
Benefits and potential
The concept of social and collaborative BI has been hailed by many as the answer to the persistent problem that, despite increasing investment in BI, many organizations are failing to utilize reporting and analytics effectively and continue to make poor business decisions, resulting in low ROI.
Gartner predicts that CDM platforms will stimulate a new approach to complex decision making by linking the information and reports gleaned from BI software with the latest social media collaboration tools.
Gartner’s prognostic report, The Rise of Collaborative Decision Making, predicts that this new technology will minimize the cost and lag in the decision-making process, leading to improved productivity, operational efficiencies and ultimately, better, more timely decisions.
Recent McKinsey Global and Aberdeen Group research have indicated that organizations with collaborative technologies respond to business threats and complete key projects faster, experiencing decreased time to market for new products as well as improved employee satisfaction.
There are three major functions that combine together to enable effective enterprise collaboration and networking based on reporting and analytics, and form the basis of a CDM platform. These are the ability to:
- Discuss and overlay knowledge on business data
- Share knowledge and content
- Collectively decide the best course of action
Discussing and overlaying knowledge on business data
Most decision-making and discussion surrounding business processes occurs outside organizational BI platforms, opening a gap between human insight and the business data itself. Business decisions should be made alongside business data to ensure steadfast, fact-based decision-making.
An open-access discussion forum integrated into the BI solution allows users to discuss the results of data analysis, connecting the right people with the right data. Users are able to overlay human knowledge, insight and provide context to the data in reports.
A social layer within a BI solution improves the efficiency of business interaction regarding reporting and analytics compared to traditional avenues of communication such as faxes, phone calls and face-to-face meetings by:
- Being recordable: Conversations are automatically recorded, creating a searchable history of all interaction, eliminating unnecessarily revisiting points previously made
- Eliminating logistical hurdles: The need for complex and costly travel arrangements is significantly reduced, with geographically dispersed stakeholders able to participate in the exchange of information faster
- Enabling all relevant stakeholders to participate: All relevant stakeholders can contribute to discussion at their convenience
Key features of a CDM forum
On a unified discussion platform, users can discuss and share content in three ways, via:
- Report centric discussion: Allows relevant stakeholders to participate in the documented discussion and analysis concerning a specific report.
- Annotations: Allow users to overlay knowledge onto a report, pinpointing specific dates, to help explain the actual events that gave rise to a particular trend in the data.
- General discussion topics: Allows users to drive appropriately detailed and contextualized discussion, analysis and decision-making across broad issues, by sharing insight from multiple reports simultaneously.
Sharing knowledge and content
The digital era is often described as the Information Age. But the value of information resides in its ability to be shared.
A CDM module allows information relating to reporting and analytics to be shared in three ways, by:
- Cataloguing: A social layer within a BI solution allows users to create a searchable history by tagging and cataloging past discussions and reports within shared folders inside the BI portal. Tagging allows users to quickly and easily file report, annotation and discussion content under multiple categories for quick and easy retrieval.
- Distributing: The ability to export entire files/reports from the BI portal keeps all relevant decision-makers properly informed. Likewise, sharing direct links to external information in a threaded discussion within the CDM platform adds necessary detail, context and perspective to discussion.
- Embedding: A CDM layer within a BI tool enables users to embed reports and vital contextual content across platforms – wherever it is needed for decision-making.
A CDM module does this in two ways
- Within the BI tool’s social layer or enterprise portals (intranet system) via a web services application programming interface (API)
- Outside the enterprise, on any platform, via YouTube style Java script export, enabling users to embed live interactive reports or other information by simply copying the Java script fragment into any HTML page
Collectively deciding the best course of action
Corporate collaboration and knowledge-sharing platforms borrow many of their components from popular social networking platforms, although, there is one important difference.
Most social media platforms are designed around the individual, allowing for individual knowledge sharing and participation. They are not designed for, and do not facilitate, consensus and decision-making. There is no bridge between insight and action.
Corporate CDM modules include a mechanism for deciding action, such as voting or polling, to guide and transform conversation and analysis into specific, measurable and desirable outcomes.
Technology factors that underpin enterprise CDM
A BI CDM module is underpinned by three factors.
- Ease of use: CDM software follows the Web 2.0 self-service mindset. The collaborative components within the BI solution cater for a diversity of user ability and skill levels to ensure knowledge does not remain departmentalized.
- Integration: A CDM platform allows users to discuss their analysis alongside their BI content. Because the CDM platform is within the BI tool, users can initiate analysis and conversation in full view of the data. The need to set up meetings and discussions in isolation from data set is reduced. The collaborative process remains documented in a single open-access space, and discussion remains on topic. Social BI facilitates effective CDM because both the collaborative platform and data are located in the one place.
- Web-based: Being Web-based, the collaborative platform allows all relevant stakeholders to follow and contribute to discussion as it unfolds, regardless of location, time difference or device used to access it.
CDM modules in the Business Intelligence space
Social BI and CDM software is still in its infancy according to Gartner, and remains underutilized. However, a handful of vendors in the BI marketplace offer CDM modules, including:
- BITeamwork  (Collaborative BI Plug-in for Oracle BI)
- Fingertip Ltd  (Collaborative Decision-Making in Salesforce)
- IBM Cognos (Optional add on)
- Lyzasoft  (Optional add on)
- WIQ by ynSyte ynSyte
- Yellowfin Business Intelligence (Included Out of the box)
While the offerings listed above are larger BI systems with upgrades for CDM features, there have emerged some dedicated web based, software-as-a-service CDM offerings, including:
- IDC, Determining the Value of Social Business ROI Myths Facts and Potentially High Returns, IDC.
- IDC, BusinessDictionary.com Collaborative Business Intelligence (CBI), Business Dictionary.
- Gartner The Rise of Collaborative Decision Making, Gartner.
- Transforming Information Overflow to Improve Business Performance, Aberdeen.
- Features - OBIEE Commenting and Annotations via BITeamwork, BITeamwork Collaborative BI
- Fingertip - Social Decision-Making, Fingertip - Social Decision-Making
- Collaborative BI, Lyzasoft.
- White paper – Social and Collaborative Business Intelligence, Yellowfin Business Intelligence.
- McGinley, P (2012), "Decision analysis software survey", OR/MS Today 39.