Person + Hammer Carpenter: Thoughts on Self Service BI
For years and years, software vendors have promised end-users they can have the data they want without talking to the IT department they don’t like. Things haven’t changed. I recently saw the following business intelligence stats (thanks to @TimoElliott and Logi Analytics).
As you can see, people still need IT. But why? Here are a few thoughts:
1. Person + Hammer <> Carpenter
If you’ve ever chased after a three year old who’s wielding a hammer, you know that a hammer is a simple tool. Even toddlers know how to use it. They bang away—at everything.
But just because you know how to use a hammer doesn’t mean you’re ready to build a house. Or even a porch.
So too with data. Sure, software, such as Power BI, is easier to use than earlier BI tools. But just as “Person + Hammer <> Carpenter,” so too “Super User + Power BI <> Data Expert.” Super users need to understand things like data cleansing and how to visualize data. They need to think not only, “Boy, that was easy” but also, “What mistakes did I make?”
2. Data Changes
If you have one system, with clean data, you can probably build a data mart, buy a tool, train your end users and then go on vacation.
But what if your data changes? And what if people want new combinations of that data? I’ve seen lots of end user tools that make reporting and visualization easier. But I haven’t seen many that can easily reconcile multiple systems or consolidate customer lists or interface across operating systems.
Before you consider “self-service” BI, ask how much your data changes. Because the more it changes, the more your users will have to rely on IT.
3. Time, Time, Time
Everything takes time. And sure, it’s easy to say to IT, “If you can’t do it, we’ll do it ourselves.” But when folks take on reporting and data analysis tasks, they often realize they don’t have the time to do it either. This is true even if you understand the basics of data cleansing, and you take the time to learn the tool. If you still have a day job, you may never get around to doing your own reporting and data analysis.
What’s your experience? In your company, do users build their own reports? Has new BI software changed anything?