Blog | May 7, 2012

Information Delivery:  Providing the Right BI Tools for Your Users

Erik GoldenI was looking through some old materials from when I attended the CT Technology Council’s 2010 CIO Forum and ran across my notes from Gartner Analyst Kurt Schlegel’s presentation "Five Recommendations for Your BI Strategy."  Schlegel offered a lot of insight into what makes a successful BI organization and the importance of a performance-driven culture – a theme which I find even more relevant today.

One of Schlegel’s five recommendations was to focus on information delivery "sweet spots," or to recognize that your BI program may need to offer a variety of options for users along a spectrum of centralization and control.  Too often, in an effort to avoid the extreme ends of that spectrum—at one end, totally centralized information delivery controlled by IT that offers business users only static reports and, on the other, a decentralized environment where users have complete autonomy and work with data dumps in Excel or Access—BI teams will hone in on the middle ground and offer exclusively ad-hoc query or OLAP options.

Spectrum of BI Centralization

Schlegel suggested that some users might be better served by access to interactive reports that were created for their consumption by professional report writers – an option somewhat left of center.  Or alternately, power users who are skilled enough to play with raw data themselves may benefit from options for discovery-based analysis in an environment slightly more controlled than autonomous data dumps – since they’ll play with the data anyway, with or without an IT-provided playground.  So, IT may as well meet them halfway – an homage to the idea of "if people are going to use heroin anyway, we may as well provide them with safe, clean needles."  An unpleasant analogy, but it works.

So clearly there is no one-size-fits-all BI strategy – all the more reason why it's critical for BI teams to include members with both IT and business acumen who truly understand the needs and habits of business users.  It’s not enough to believe that "if you build it, they will come," since in the case of BI, they won’t come if it doesn’t meet their daily needs.