n South African Computer Journal - Usability evaluation for Business Intelligence applications : a user support perspective : research article




Business Intelligence (BI) applications provide business information to drive decision support. Usability is one of the factors determining the optimal use and eventual benefit derived from BI applications. The documented need for more BI usability research together with the practical necessity for BI evaluation guidelines in the mining industry provides the rationale for this study. The purpose of the study was to investigate the usability evaluation of BI applications in the context of a coal mining organization. The research is guided by the question: How can the existing usability criteria be customized to evaluate the usability of BI applications? The research design included user observation, heuristic evaluation and a survey. Based on observations made during user support on a BI application used at a coal mining organization a log of usability issues was compiled. The usability issues extracted from this log were compared and contrasted with general usability criteria from literature to synthesize an initial set of BI usability evaluation criteria. These criteria were used as the basis for a heuristic evaluation of the BI application used at the coal mining organization. The same BI application was also evaluated using the Software Usability Measurement Inventory (SUMI) standardized questionnaire. The results from the two evaluations were triangulated and then compared with the BI user issues again to contextualize the findings and synthesize a validated and refined set of criteria. The main contribution of the study is the usability evaluation criteria for BI applications presented as guidelines. These BI guidelines deviate from existing usability evaluation guidelines in that it emphasises the aspects of information architecture, learnability and operability.


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