Business Discovery is a new – and different – approach to traditional, hierarchical BI, enabling business users to make discoveries in their data themselves and ask and answer their own questions, without needing to return to IT every time a new query, report or visualization is needed. The role of IT is a critical element for the success of any Business Discovery implementation. QlikView enables a true IT-led Business Discovery approach allowing IT to manage the deployment at the macro level and allowing the business to manage it at the micro level. IT is placed in the center of all successful deployments and Business Discovery enables IT to become champions to the business once again.
This post is part of a series that examines the role of IT in Business Discovery.
Part 1: Traditional BI falls short and has cost too much
The drawbacks to the traditional approaches to BI are well documented and understood (see the white paper “Business Discovery – Powerful, User-Driven BI”) A report-centric approach to BI requiring multiple elements of a vendor’s stack and a team of skilled data analysts with deep SQL skills is exacerbated by the real frustration within the business (i.e. non-IT) community of inadequate access to data to help them make decisions due to a backlog in requests for new reports and new queries. IT professionals are frustrated by the wasted investment in building large BI systems due to a lackluster adoption by the business functions that they are supposed to be enabling. “We built it and nobody came” is a disheartening reality for many IT professionals involved in Traditional BI projects. For many, the promise offered by Traditional BI has been seen as a failure. As a result, tensions between the business and IT communities increase, data-driven decision making suffers and – worryingly – business units take matters into their own hands by utilizing the most ubiquitous of BI tools out there – the spreadsheet - resulting in ‘Spreadsheet Anarchy’.
It wasn’t meant to be this way. Business Intelligence – once known as ‘Decision Support’ – was supposed to allow people and groups to make better and more informed decisions because of easy access to and consumption of centralized and approved data. Unfortunately, as often happens, technology got in the way and the promise went unfulfilled.
Business Discovery Liberates IT from Mundane Tasks: A ‘Win-Win’ situation
Business Discovery is a ‘bottoms up’ approach to the age-old problem of data access: rather than following a top-down hierarchical approach, Business Discovery gives the decision makers – the business units – the flexibility to explore their data, find insights and turn that data into information, without requiring a costly and inefficient intervention from IT at every step. The effect on the organization is two-fold: firstly, business units can more quickly make better data-driven decisions, without technology (and lack of deep skills to use it) getting in the way. Secondly, IT organizations can now be freed up to focus on their core competencies because the time previously needed for mundane data access and report writing tasks can now be spent on higher value projects for the organization. Not only does the business side’s productivity increase, IT’s efficiency increases, resulting in a classic ‘win-win situation’.
Figure 1:The Evolving BI Landscape and IT’s Changing Role
A new approach to ‘Self-Service BI’
The concept of self-service BI is not a new one: some Traditional BI vendors have attempted to enable business units to take some control over data access and report generation. Unfortunately what has happened is that these approaches have not satisfied the business’ needs because they have been narrow in scope, have required heavy maintenance from the very IT professionals whom they are trying to liberate, have poor performance and have been – for most business professionals –hard to use. The idea – while worthy – failed in its execution.
QlikView takes a different approach to self-service BI: based on an inherently easier-to-build and deploy model via its associative in-memory technology, IT provisions secure and ‘clean’ centralized business data, the infrastructure and security privileges, while the business units are given the flexibility to explore the data along the paths that they define, introduce additional local data to augment their discoveries and even build their own applications. All of this occurs under a governance framework within QlikView that IT can tailor to meet the specific requirements of the organization. In this way, IT controls the deployment at the macro level while the business units run it at the micro level.
Figure 1 highlights the central role that IT takes in any successful Business Discovery deployment: At the center, provisioning data and services while the business takes ownership of its own analytic needs.
Figure 2 provides a simple view of the impact of Business Discovery on an IT organization. With Business Discovery, requests to the IT department are within a range of requests for new data elements and data sources, new data models (e.g. ‘cleansed’ departmental data) and infrastructure support (e.g. license management). With Traditional BI, requests to the IT department are more frequent: new reports, new data queries (including new OLAP cubes), new views on the data, new data access needs and infrastructure support – to name a few. The net result is that IT departments are typically backlogged with requests from the business, which has a negative impact on the overall efficiency of the IT department.
Figure 2 shows ranges in the amount of requests made to IT: every organization is different in how they implement Business Discovery or Traditional BI. In some, the IT requests are smaller than others. In general, however, Business Discovery implementations require less intervention by IT and allows them to focus on other, more productive aspects of their critical role within an organization. The reasons for this are examined in the next posts in this series.
In the next part of the series, I'll examine the various business and IT roles and their impact on a Business Discovery deployment.