5/09/2014

Report Writers Days Are Numbered

I would get a call from some senior executive.  Needing some reports.  I was the go to guy.  That was back in the mid to late 1990's.  The time when Report Writers were influential in meeting the demands of the upper management.  Because they had no where else to turn.  Because IT had the lock on the data and no reason to relinquish their power.  And their reports were slow, inaccurate, stale and costly.

Fast forward a decade, self service became a reality.  The Business decided they waited long enough for access to their data.  And they found contractors paid through their own budget, they hosted Access databases, Excel docs, Cloud services, and they made rouge Shadow IT data warehouses.  They filled a void which IT could not supply.

Where are we going from here?  Based on what I see, Self Service is going to continue to grow.  Tools will be simpled down so anyone can be a data jockey.  The days of IT owing the data are long gone.  Report Writers days are numbers as well.  Data is available from external sources, there are platforms to mash data, apply business rules, collaborate internally, mobile devices, just about every aspect is available to the business unit.

So who controls the data?  Good question.  IT supports the database and the servers, but not the data.  The business doesn't own the data either, they have other job functions which require day to day attention.  Nobody wants to own the data.  Why is that?  Well, is the data accurate.  Is there a formal Data Governance plan in place.  Who is guiding the future of the organizations analytics?  Who is the go to department to interact with the CEO, CIO, Finance, Sales, Marketing, IT, HR?  There really is no dedicated existing role.  But there needs to be.  Some have mentioned the new role of Chief Data Officer or the BI Competency Center.  I tend to believe the Chief Data Officer will be the go to guy to orchestrate the Data within an organization.  A self funded department.  Who can matrix people from within the org, for Power Users, Domain Knowledge expertise, for Data Governance and Data Stewards, to make sure the data is clean and governed, who guides the software direction, who can hire contractor or consultants as needed, if internal skills are lacking, this is actually a really cool position.  I see this role growing in organizations in for profit orgs, government institutions, and non profits.  In fact, every department of every organization can use metrics to guide their way.

The days of a single Report Writer are over, sadly I was one of them, so where do I go from here?  I'm going upstream to where the complexity hasn't been automated yet.  And where's that?  Hadoop.  Data Warehousing, Data Mashing, Fuzzy Logic, Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, Analytics, Visualization, that's where.  Will these technologies become commodity software in the future, perhaps.  But for now, I believe the Business can fill their own needs for the most part with a bit of guidance.  So I'm going to where the fishing is good, higher complexity data, where the supply of talent is not that great, they can't fill the existing positions.  Perhaps I can hang out there for a while until the industry catches up again.

And so it goes~!

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