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William McKnight

Hello and welcome to my blog!

I will periodically be sharing my thoughts and observations on information management here in the blog. I am passionate about the effective creation, management and distribution of information for the benefit of company goals, and I'm thrilled to be a part of my clients' growth plans and connect what the industry provides to those goals. I have played many roles, but the perspective I come from is benefit to the end client. I hope the entries can be of some modest benefit to that goal. Please share your thoughts and input to the topics.

About the author >

William is the president of McKnight Consulting Group, a firm focused on delivering business value and solving business challenges utilizing proven, streamlined approaches in data warehousing, master data management and business intelligence, all with a focus on data quality and scalable architectures. William functions as strategist, information architect and program manager for complex, high-volume, full life-cycle implementations worldwide. William is a Southwest Entrepreneur of the Year finalist, a frequent best-practices judge, has authored hundreds of articles and white papers, and given hundreds of international keynotes and public seminars. His team's implementations from both IT and consultant positions have won Best Practices awards. He is a former IT Vice President of a Fortune company, a former software engineer, and holds an MBA. William is author of the book 90 Days to Success in Consulting. Contact William at wmcknight@mcknightcg.com.

Editor's Note: More articles and resources are available in William's BeyeNETWORK Expert Channel. Be sure to visit today!

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
Permalink | 2 Comments |


William- thanks for sharing this very timely post. From what I gathered on today's Forrester Tweet Jam, consensus seems to be that security concerns over Cloud-Based BI solutions are dwindling. In addition, those solutions have also become much more attractive through affordability:


Thanks again for sharing,


Hi Brett, I agree about the security concerns abating - and it's both through comfort as well as increased security on the part of the providers. Thanks.

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