Information overflow and
how self-service can fix a crack
in the BI ‘dam’

For ancient people, it was the keeping in a group and exchanging information that helped them survive in a wild world. Nothing has changed since those times really, except that the amount of information has grown a bit. Google CEO Eric Schmidt claims that every two days now we produce the same amount of information that the humankind created for the time from the birth of the world till 2003. So, to survive these days we need not only to exchange information but also be able to extract a relevant one from the information ocean.

In business, the ability to stand out of information noise and find appropriate information just in time becomes tremendously crucial to survival. When Business Intelligence (BI) came up on the stage in the late 90s, its concept was responding to this business demand. The main idea then was to help businesses transform data into valuable information and deliver this information in a convenient visual way to the business when they need it.

What was the BI promise then? 

“Let us collect data from all the sources, clean it, load into a single data warehouse and then teach end-users how to run their own queries on it” – this sounded like a paradise back then. And yet that promise of “self-service reporting”, in a very same manner to pre-election promises of all presidential candidates worldwide, has ended up an “unrealised promise”.

BI tools turned out to be too complicated for a “casual” user to deal with and we ended up in the situation when IT was developing reports for business being constantly buried under a backlog of requests. On their turn, business users were waiting for requested reports for weeks if not months relying rather on a gut feeling than on facts and data when making critical business decisions. The volume of valuable information out there is continually growing, and we keep struggling to get the relevant one.

Does it mean the days of BI are counted? 

Just a new step. What we are witnessing now is the rise of the second generation of BI – Self-Service BI (SSBI). The idea of SSBI is in giving casual users the right to run their own queries, generate reports and satisfy their own information needs without an involvement of IT. The main changes between the “old” and “new” BI manifested are the following:

BI vs. Self-service BI

Prospects offered by self-service BI are inspiring. But there is a fly in this ointment – “casual” users don’t want to be data experts and create their own reports. They don’t want to spend a part of their working day running queries and then analysing and wading through the results.

Yes, there is a determined number of employees, satisfied by an existing “self-service mode” – they are analysts, advanced or “power” users, BI analysts – all those people, whose main role is to use information and generate reports. But how many of such employees a company has? They say it’s about 20-30%.

Other 70-80% is the “information consumers”, or simply – casual users. Unlike a business analyst, whose primary job is to perform analysis on data, a casual user like a shop manager, for example, wants to focus on his main duties of managing staff and suppliers, referring to a report only when a certain decision has to be made. The truth is that almost 80% of casual users’ needs in information can be satisfied with the already existing reports. And the reason, why they do not use existing reports, is because they just can’t find them or even don’t know that they exist.

So, what do people really want from BI?

BI Research and Intelligent Solutions conducted a survey asking over 600 business users representing different organisations and business functions to name the “most important” capabilities they expect to see in the next generation of analytical and reporting environment. Here is what they say:

As we see, apart from BI Automation, end-users want a self-service BI environment, where they can find and understand the information they need independently. They want a single place (Portal), where they will be able to communicate (Collaborate), to find relevant report or term (Search) and check the meaning of information (Glossary).

There are many BI tools on the market, both traditional and self-service that offer capabilities to satisfy needs of 30% of information users, but the need of the majority in having a single portal with incorporated glossary, where they could search and collaborate on information, is somehow neglected. When we realised it, the idea of creating a Self-Service BI Environment became our White Whale.

Our dream materialised in Perfex Info Governance Portal – a place, where people meet their BI assets – reports, KPIs and metrics. There they can finally search for information, navigate between reports and collaborate with colleagues in one place.

We’ve caught our Whale. Fancy to have a look? 

 

 
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