Will Your Self-Service Really be of Service in the Long Run?

29 March 2016 - #bi #cpm #self-service analytics #business intelligence

By Pietro Ferrari, CTO, BOARD International

History has shown that the large foot prints and overall rigidity of traditional BI stacks failed to provide business users the independence, agility and ease of use they needed to effectively apply analytics to their lines of business and gain the insights needed to make informed and profitable decisions.

Perhaps the greatest blunder traditional BI vendor and their IT customers made was exerting full and uncompromising control over their BI stacks through rigid rules and chains of command that took so much time and effort as to be virtually useless to business users outside of the executive suites.

This deliberate or unconscious attitude by traditional BI vendors to ignore end-users’ needs created a vacuum that university research programs and their start-up progeny soon filled.

Like water seeking its own level, what we now call self-service analytics managed to find other paths into companies, seeping in through independent downloads and free trials, first of colorful and multi-dimensional dashboards and displays, then of laptop-based modeling and reporting tools that were as easy to use as smart phones and consumer apps.

Which brings us to today, when the market for self-service analytics has been growing at multiples of traditional BI platforms. Witness Gartner’s Magic Quadrant that this year dropped traditional, IT-dependent BI platforms and only evaluated what it termed “modern,” IT-independent platforms. Gartner reflected what its end-user clients asked for most often, and what they observed to be growing fastest.

But while resolving pain for business users in the short term, the implied message to the marketplace is that centralized BI and analytics are inherently evil. This is an overreaction to past failures… throwing the proverbial baby out with the bathwater. IT departments still serve vital support functions for all modern enterprises, providing security and technologies that literally run the business.

And today, all too often C-level execs are discovering that their self-service tools are not part of their enterprise analytics platform, and require special handling to promote models into the enterprise. This is usually due to their vendors having bolted on tool sets that were either acquired or gained through partnerships, at the expense of compatibility and easy data transfers.

What companies need today is the best of both worlds… tools that allow line of business managers to conduct their own analyses, and an enterprise platform compatible with those tools to ensure the integrity of a corporate system of record for successful executive planning, forecasting and decision making.

We don’t need halfway measures or to make serious compromises to either world. What we need is to stay the course in finding unified solutions that span both self-service analytics and enterprise-wide systems of record.


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