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BI industry builds tools for itself: Yellowfin CEO

Why aren’t the data industry’s tools more widely adopted? Data-industry experts have fretted for years over the estimated 5 percent penetration. Yellowfin CEO Glen Rabie has an explanation.

“We never contextualize applications,” he said at the recent Pacific Northwest BI Summit. “We always talk about the homogenous product. We don’t know the consumer. We don’t tailor.”

We don’t talk about the “who.” Who uses our tools? And how they’re used? The marketing rarely distinguishes one industry from another. In fact, even when you read closely, you can’t find a unique selling proposition.

Perhaps worse, says Glen, the tools don’t accommodate different modes of comprehension. Contrary to the market buzz, not everyone is basically visual. There’s also audio and, yes, words.

Take the group of lawyers he works with, for example. “A chart means nothing,” he says with a shrug. “But give them 1000 words, and that means something to them.”

When people in the data industry look around for reasons to explain the disappointing penetration into business, they should instead look within the industry. “We’re building the tools for ourselves,” he says, and that leaves out a lot of users. Tools assume too much analytical skill or at least too much motivation when the value can’t be demonstrated.

Instead, he looks tools that aren’t even labeled “analytical.” When you plan a trip on Google Maps, for example, you see which route is fastest.

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