Can a user really do BI from the desktop?
Commentards, tell us what you think.
Analysts at Gartner (and Forrester, and elsewhere) have predicted that 2011 will be the year of self service business intelligence, as users demand tools to help them access and understand company data.
The users’ motives are easy to understand: identifying and responding quickly to trends and patterns in business data is vital, especially when the margins are narrow. The faster the reports can be produced, the better, and the lesser the load on IT. But is this really happening?
Now that spreadsheets can handle increasingly large datasets, Can a user really do BI from the desktop? If you have some thoughts, please share them in the comments. If you don’t have any ideas, perhaps you’ll vote for the comments you think are best.
We’ll be in touch with the “winner” to get a more in depth view. Think you can help? Well, what are you waiting for?
>We're here: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you want pages of bullshit bingo like that.....
It's at least 20 years since I was first involved with this question.
BI tools have come a long way (in some respects, in others they seem curiously to have regressed). But I suspect that the answer to the question is still "Probably Not". The way corporate data is stored is usually the problem.
What tends to happen is that somebody in an office becomes a BI super-user and either helps everybody else with their reporting problems or supplied them with canned reports. It's still BI as a specialist function, but the specialist isn't part of the IT department.
It's all about the culture
One of the key problems I see is that while BI (as an initiative) is business-driven, and is essentially an evolution from allowing IT to produce the required reports (and waiting months for them to be written) the underpinning technology is still very much in ITs ballpark. So the gulf between the business objectives and ITs delivery capability is wide - and getting wider, due to the introduction of new technologies (or at least new versions) which IT have scant experience in.
The whole concept of centralising and optimising data within a single data model is such a step forward, that this needs to be completely understood at a business level before you can really reap the rewards. Executive buy-in is just the start:
Where's your logical data model?
What's your strategy for only extracting each item of data once from the source systems?
Where's your strategy for ensuring that every dept doesn't simply write the same report as everyone else? (Why have 100 reports when you could have 10?)
When a new project comes along, how will you verify, out of the data they request, which is already in the EDW and which isn't?
If you're extracting data from multiple global data sources, but those sources will be busy during their respective daylight hours, how do you manage the collection, transformation, updating, reporting, backing up & maintaining of data from 3+ global regions, all into the same data model? Which parts of that model dictate regionalised data (i.e. for region-specific backup windows) and which parts are a single entity?
Who's going to write the OLAP cubes? The users? If so, who supports them? You've spent $10m on those EDW and ETL platforms, and now Maureen from Finance is going to monopolise the whole thing with a badly-written query.
Looking at the presentation tier, who writes the BI dashboards for SharePoint? All the products are so new that IT keep being asked for sysadmin rights to be granted to all the servers - how do you educate these people to develop via the API when their boss is screaming at them to produce "a simple report" by tomorrow?
Until the business and IT learn to really talk to each other and respect the other's needs, timescales etc, then while self-service BI might be moving forward, the concepts of standardised, maintained, efficient, supported, operational IT are threatening to go backwards.