QUESTION: Can BI truly be self-service?
ANSWER: There has been a lot of recent buzz about self-service BI. It’s an objective virtually every organization would like to achieve: let business users explore their data without the need for much support (or infrastructure creation) from IT. Data discovery tools offer the promise (with some prominent success stories) of user independence, and the vendors who provide those tools have seen significant growth. QlikTech and Tableau Software offer tools leading in this space, with recent competition coming from traditional BI vendors: Microsoft’s Power View, SAP’s Visual Intelligence, IBM’s Cognos Insight, MicroStrategy 9, and SAS Visual Analytics Explorer.
The reality is a little more complicated. These data discovery tools give business users the independence to explore their data, once they have it. There’s no need to wait for an analyst or power user to make a change to a report or to add a new rule to enable some drilling.
However, the key phrase is “once they have it.” Data discovery tools, by default, don’t have any semantic knowledge of the data sets loaded into them. It’s still difficult for a business user to find all of the data elements for a Purchase Order or an Invoice or an HR assignment. That data modeling still presents a challenge.
Pre-defined data models (like NoetixViews) that simplify access to enterprise data make this easier. Users don’t need to navigate through thousands of database tables to find the ones they want to load into their data set. In addition, complex business rules that are embedded in the data model are already mapped into business terminology. Similarly, packaged data warehouse products (like Noetix Analytics) provide a faster way to build a data warehouse that can be explored with the data discovery tools.
There’s no question that user independence will continue to grow and the push toward self-service BI will continue. Data discovery tools aren’t going away, but will be more valuable when deployed with data modeling and security help from IT.
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