12/15/2016

The Self Service Business Intelligence Revolution is Underway

I wrote my first Crystal Report probably in 1996 as Version 5 was just released.  And Crystal Info too, that original code resides in today's Business Objects.  The thing about it, reports were based on data.  And we used SQL or Structured Query Language to get the data out of the DB into a Report.

Sure they had a wizard, but after 5 minutes, you had to write custom SQL.  And for a very long time SQL didn't change.  They've added new things like JSON and XML support.  And some other goodies over time.  It hasn't changed drastically.

Now we have Self Service Business Intelligence.  Put the power of the data in the hands of the people.  It really is a revolution.  It is powerful.  And easy to use.  You can build a dashboard in about 5 minutes.  Just connect to the data source, add a few fields, colors, labels, publish, out the door.  Bam!

So why do we need report writers or ETL (Extract Transform & Load) developers, or Data Warehouse developers?

Well, Self Service BI does not include a button to push to clean the data.  The data is still dirty.  That extra space at the end of row 3854, or 5 different ways so store Firstname field, Lastname field or Firstname + " " + Lastname or Lastname, Firstname Middle Initial or Lastname.  Or duplicate data.  Or missing data.  Or manually extracting data feeds from other reports.  Or data only being correct for the day the report ran.  Or business rules changed in May, how do we report both the old metrics and new metrics year end reporting, and on and on.

Self Service will get you brownie points for fast, visually appealing Dashboards, just keep in mind, there's no easy solution for data quality issues.  If we set that to the side, self service bi could very well displace traditional report writers.  Because the end users know the data and the business rules.  And they don't need to be trained in coding SQL.  Report writers just know the data for the most part, slight generalization, but true, they may not be able to decipher the meaning behind the numbers.

If I was strictly a report writer, with no other value added, I'd be slightly worried.  The Self Service BI is taking over.

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