It’s pretty rare for me to do a vendor-sponsored white paper. I simply am too swamped with product reviews, blogs, articles, courses, and customer consulting.
So when Endeca first approached me about writing about self-service BI, I politely declined, suspecting they really wanted a funded product review. I had looked at their new product at a high level and liked what I saw. Their new product Endeca Latitude combines faceted search (if you’ve ever shopped at ebags, for example, you’ve experienced Endeca) with a dashboard interface. Earlier this month, they participated in my TDWI Dashboard bake off along with IBM Cognos and Tableau (look for a new vendor line up at the Chicago conference).
Endeca assured me I didn’t need to mention their product at all. The paper could be what I wanted, a candid discussion of what I saw in companies struggling with self-service BI. So you have my five myths of self-service BI:
1: Business users will create their own queries.
2. BI is so easy to use, even casual users will embrace BI.
3. Self-Service BI is only for internal users.
4. “I will have access to all my data.”
5. Once we have self-service BI, the business won’t need IT (and IT will be jobless).
The vision for self-service BI is an enticing one: provide business users with direct access to all the data they need to make critical business decisions. In theory, self-service BI closes the gap between the decision-maker and the person with access to the data.
And yet so much seems to go wrong in efforts to fulfill this vision, generating frustration for both BI teams and business users. I think a lot of the failures have more to do with unrealistic and mismanaged expectations rather than an unachievable vision. Let’s take that first myth, for example. The goal of self-service BI should not be to get mainstream business users to create their own queries.
At this point, you might be thinking “what?! Why not? Isn’t that why we just invested millions of dollars in our business /ad hoc query tool?”
Sadly, you might have been sold on that promise by someone – either your vendor painting an unrealistic picture or your CIO/IT Manager declaring IT has to get out of the reporting writing business. But it’s not realistic. At first blush, business query tools should let power users and business analysts create their own queries and reports, not the majority of prospective BI users. The empowerment for these mainstream users is in interacting with what a business-savvy power user has created as a starting point, and then if necessary, tweaking that content. Even for these power users, when you first move to a self-service BI environment, you don’t want to start them with a blank screen, forcing them to choose from a cryptic list of 1000s of data elements (read my TDWI Top 10 Mistakes from 2004!!).
So what to do when expectations are different from reality? For each of the myths, I’ve presented a reality checklist. You can access the white paper here, and I thank Endeca for sponsoring it.
Have you taken the 2011 Successful BI Survey yet? Take the survey here to tell us your reasons for BI success or failure. You could win $100!
Cindi Howson, BI Scorecard