The K.I.S.S Principle

The temptation with business intelligence, and especially with the amount of real-time information now present in the modern age, is the tendency to too much. However this excess of real-time data, far from giving us a complete view of a developing situation, can leave us missing the whole for the sake of individual and often irrelevant strands of information. A whole slew of metric data is instantly available and it is all too easy to start spending too much time on the details.

“Less is more”, says Linda Tucci Executive Editor of TechTarget invoking the K.I.S.S principle. Paraphrasing heavily from Roy Schulte's session at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo show the basic idea is that the result of too much information is a full information overload: pertinent information is then obscured and people become distracted from the real issue at hand. This is counterproductive to the real point of real-time BI – to help you make faster, and more informed decisions than before. Three things inevitably lead to confusion and distraction and can be easily cut from any report to help streamline and make more accessible only the most important information needed to help you with those informed decisions.

The first is to get rid of pictures. All of them. All of that complementary imagery: clip-art, logos, decorations, no matter how seemingly relevant is just a distraction and slows down decision making. Flashy 3D graphics? Those too, they are just hiding and obscuring the relevant information, making it harder to read.

Second is to slim down on the use of metrics. Instinctively, people will always show more than they need. Most of them are mere 'trimmings' and can be cut from the report. If you're unwilling to cut them out entirely it can be worth just hiding them behind a reveal button so only the most pertinent metrics are initially available to view.

Finally, it is important to beware of alert fatigue. If the limits are too sensitive this just becomes counterproductive as people are prone to stop paying attention, becoming tired at the constant alerts.

The importance of people-centred design in BI reports is evident here. If trusting in the old adage of “time is money” then the simpler, and more effective the information presented, the more a company will benefit from its use of real-time business intelligence.