Since its inception, the primary objective of business intelligence has been the creation of a top-down single source of truth from which organisations would centrally track KPIs and performance metrics with static reports and dashboards. This stemmed from the proliferation of data in spreadsheets and reporting silos throughout organisations, often yielding different and conflicting results. With this new mandate, BI-focused teams were formed, often in IT departments, and they began to approach the problem in the same manner as traditional IT projects, where the business makes a request of IT, IT logs a ticket, then fulfils the request following a waterfall methodology.
While this supplier/consumer approach to BI appeared to be well-suited for the task of centralising an organisation’s data and promoting consistency, it sacrificed business agility. There was a significant lag between the time the question was asked, and the time the question was answered. This delay and lack of agility within the analysis process led to lackluster adoption and low overall business impact.
The emergence of self-service Business Intelligence
The emergence of self-service BI in recent years has challenged the status quo, especially for IT professionals who have spent the better part of the past two decades building out a BI infrastructure designed for developing top-down, centralised reporting and dashboards. Initially, this self-service trend was viewed as a nuisance by most IT departments and was virtually ignored. The focus remained on producing a centrally-managed single source of truth for the organisation.
Fast-forward to today and IT finds itself at a crossroad with self-service BI as the new normal that can no longer be ignored. The traditional approach to BI is becoming less and less relevant as the business demands the agility that comes with self-service to drive adoption and improve organisation outcomes. This, paired with the continued exponential growth in data volume and complexity, presents IT with an important choice.
Either the demand for self-service BI is embraced, and IT evolves to become the enabler of the broader use and impact of analytics throughout their organisations, or it is ignored and IT continues as the producer of lower-value enterprise reporting stifled by the limitations of traditional tools.
IT professionals who are ready to serve as the catalyst and embrace this opportunity will deliver far greater value to their organisations than those who choose to ignore the real needs of their business users and analysts.
As organisations begin the transition from a traditional top-down approach driven by IT to a self-service approach enabled by IT and led by the business, a new framework and overall strategy is required. This means that past decisions supporting the core foundational components of a BI program—people, process, and platform—must be revisited.
Adjustments are needed in these three core areas to support the shift from a model of top-down BI development and delivery to a self-service-based modern BI model which is driven, and primarily executed on, by the business. The order in which these components are considered and prioritised is significant and is a critical aspect for IT to understand to effectively execute on the transition true self-service through enablement.