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Rick van der Lans

Welcome to my blog where I will talk about a variety of topics related to data warehousing, business intelligence, application integration, and database technology. Currently my special interests include data virtualization, NoSQL technology, and service-oriented architectures. If there are any topics you'd like me to address, send them to me at rick@r20.nl.

About the author >

Rick is an independent consultant, speaker and author, specializing in data warehousing, business intelligence, database technology and data virtualization. He is managing director and founder of R20/Consultancy. An internationally acclaimed speaker who has lectured worldwide for the last 25 years, he is the chairman of the successful annual European Enterprise Data and Business Intelligence Conference held annually in London. In the summer of 2012 he published his new book Data Virtualization for Business Intelligence Systems. He is also the author of one of the most successful books on SQL, the popular Introduction to SQL, which is available in English, Chinese, Dutch, Italian and German. He has written many white papers for various software vendors. Rick can be contacted by sending an email to rick@r20.nl.

Editor's Note: Rick's blog and more articles can be accessed through his BeyeNETWORK Expert Channel.

Quite a hip and new term in the world of business intelligence is self-service business intelligence. If you visit this website regularly, you must have come across it. But is the term self-service not a term in contradiction?


To me the term service to me means that someone or something offers me a service, and that implies that I do less and the service provider does all or most of the work. For example, if I drive my car through a car wash, my car is automatically cleaned. It's the service that's being provided. Or, if I step into a hotel, packed with luggage, a porter will probably take over my bags, and will bring them to my room. Ok, I have carried them for hundreds of miles and he only does the last 100 yards, but it's still a service the hotel provides. That's basically the idea of service.


Now let's go back to the term self-service. The term self placed in front of the term service means you will do it yourself. In the context of self-service business intelligence, it means that the user can develop his own reports. But doing it yourself means you're not receiving service, you are actually doing it yourself. So, self-service means that no one offers you a service, you do all the work yourself.


For example, if a hotel positions itself as a self-service hotel, they would offer the service that you can carry your own luggage all the way up to your room. Comparably, a self-service carwash would provide the service that you can wash your car yourself. That's not service!


So combining the terms self and service make no sense, because the opposite of service is doing-it-yourself. Maybe we should rename self-service business intelligence to do-it-yourself BI, or no-service BI.

Posted March 30, 2010 8:10 AM
Permalink | 1 Comment |

1 Comment

The goal of self service business intelligence (SSBI) is to automate the work of the developer, not to transfer her tasks to user. Ideally a user 'tells' to SSBI application the same she would tell to a developer and SSBI takes care of the rest. The same way when you wash your car you can specify some options. In a well designed SSBI user saves time because it is faster to describe her needs to SSBI than to explain them to a developer (see provided link). If marketing degenerates things and every tool is now sold as SSBI, users will surely write queries, manipulate spreadsheets, format reports... But that's another matter and not original definition.

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