Open Business Intelligence to the Users

Business intelligence is in the middle of a revolution, according to Gartner. The same forces of consumerization and importance of business strategy are having an effect as they have with IT departments for some years now.

The change will open many possibilities for BI, data analytics, and the impact they can make on companies. But they will also require some big shifts in how professionals pursue their trade and how they work with others throughout their companies.

The benefit, and problem, of a shift to what users want and need is a different emphasis in what work is done and how it is accomplished. BI, like IT, exists to better further the interests of the company and to support corporate strategy. However, for too long there has been an insular quality to the efforts in which technical personnel have set agendas based on what they thought was needed and not necessarily on what users had requested.

According to Gartner Research Director Dan Sommer, as reported by ComputerWeekly, half of all BI projects are initiated by business users, not an IT department. Those users have growing interests in using data from both inside and outside the company. Whether third party information, data from government, or critical data flows from business partners, all this material could show how external conditions could affect the business.

However, BI groups haven’t adequately responded to those needs. Sommer says that BI investment is split roughly into two parts: data discovery and dashboards. But a dashboard is usually focused on internal data, not external. While users try to turn their heads outside the office walls to see how conditions might affect corporate strategies and plans, too often BI professionals keep their eyes inside.

Sommer argues for a two-part approach to BI. One is traditional, curating internal information and building delivery mechanisms for knowledge workers and executives while keeping an eye on security and other traditional concerns.

The second part of the approach is to turn part of BI into a more fluid, innovative, and responsive organization that can better respond to the needs of the business. Users need the ability to pull data and create reports and analyses as they need them. Those capabilities will have to be available on mobile platforms as well as in-house computers. Such an approach won’t endanger the existence of BI jobs. Instead, professionals will take on a different focus by creating an ever-evolving suite of tools for end users.

If BI doesn’t take such an approach, the danger will be shadow IT groups in different departments as non-IT workers combine cloud and analytic tools to achieve what they seek. The result could be critical data uploaded into third-party clouds without adequate security or analysis that uses the wrong data to get damaging results.

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