The “How I” Files #4 – Keeping my End Users Informed

In this file, I discuss techniques that I use to keep my end users informed about their business intelligence systems.  Communication is, in my opinion, one of the most overlooked skills in business intelligence development.  After all, business intelligence is all about communicating information to end users so we should be as diligent in communicating system changes and status.

Tool #1 – The Weekly Email

This is my most recent addition to my communication toolbox.  Each week I send out an email that contains sections for discussing current bugs, what changes were made during the week, what changes are scheduled for next week, and high-level outlook on development efforts for the next 90 days.   I also talk about any outages that the system experienced as well as any software updates that are scheduled (software updates from Microsoft that is).

Tool #2 – The Lunch and Learn

This technique is my favorite for showing end users new reports, dashboards, or other interface related changes.  It’s more interactive than the weekly email, and I l like it because it lets me practice my speaking skills as the lunch and learn is a mini-session.  People bring their lunch to a conference room for a 20-minute demo with 10 minute Q&A period, then it is back to work.  This technique works best for small, bite-sized chunks of information and is best when limited to 1-2 sessions per month.  Too many and your end users will burn out and stop coming.

Tool #3 – The Email Blast

This tool is best used sparingly, and only for situations of immediate importance.  I personally reserve this for severe system outages that impact the entire BI system.  For example, if the report server goes offline, I will send out an email blast to inform everyone that I am aware of the outage and another email blast when the outage is resolved.  This works best when the communication is kept short, mainly 1-3 sentences long.

Tool #4 – The All Staff Meeting

This is a tool that I don’t have to use often as the managers I build the BI systems for tend to use this one for me.  All staff meetings are great for short presentations and work best when unveiling completely new functionality such as data mining or the first unveiling of a SSAS cube or Tabular model.  These presentations are best for demo heavy content and are certainly not appropriate for time sensitive communications.

This was a shorter file than most, but one that I feel a lot of professionals overlook.  Communication needs to be central to your BI and data strategies, not an afterthought or oversight.  Besides the tools listed here, what other tools do you use you to keep your end users in the loop on changes to the BI system?

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