What do you think about when you hear the term "self-service"? To some, it's a positive term connoting the removal of barriers to a goal. I can, for example, go through the self-service checkout line at the grocery store and I'm limited only by my own scanning (and re-scanning) speed to getting out the door. However, as we've seen with some chains eliminating self-service lines recently, self-service is not always desired by either party. To some, "self-service" is a negative term, euphemistically meaning "no service" or "you're on your own."
As defined in Claudia Imhoff and Colin White's excellent report, "Self-Service Business Intelligence: Empowering Users to Generate Insights", self-service BI is defined as "the facilities within the BI environment that enable BI users to become more self-reliant and less dependent on the IT organization."
If you put up a poor data warehouse, it is a copy of operational data, only lightly remodeled from source and usually carrying many of the same data quality flaws from the source. It solves a big problem - making the data available - but after this copy of data, the fun begins with each new query being a new adventure into data sources, tools, models, etc. What has inevitably happened in some environments is that users take what they need, like it's raw data, and do the further processing required for the business department or function.
This post-warehouse processing is frequently very valuable to the rest of the organization, if the organization could only get access to it. However, data that is generated and calculated post-data warehouse has little hope of reaching any kind of shared state. This data warehouse is not ready for self-service BI.
According to Imhoff and White, the BI environment needs to achieve four main objectives for self-service BI:
1. Make BI tools easy to use
2. Make BI results easy to consume and enhance
3. Make DW solutions fast to deploy and easy to manage
4. Make it easy to access source data
To achieve these goals, you need a solid foundation and solid processes. Take account of your BI environment. While IT and consultancy practices have coined "self-service business intelligence" to put some discipline to the idea of user empowerment, some of it is mere re-labeling of "no service" BI and does not attain and maintain a healthy relationship with the user community and healthy exploitation of the data produced in the systems. We all know that IT budgets are under pressure, but this is not the time to cut vital services of support that maintain multi-million dollar investments.
Posted July 28, 2011 7:07 PM
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