Santa’s List from a BI Consultant

December 28, 2014
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I Santa Bode‘ve written several times to Santa while I have been working in the BI industry.

I Santa Bode‘ve written several times to Santa while I have been working in the BI industry. Previously from a BI director’s, DW manager’s and enterprise data modeler’s perspectives. I’d like to say Santa answered some of these requests but those folks must have been naughty.

The new list for Santa is from a BI consultant’s perspective. How many of these things are on your list?

Dear Santa,

I think I’ve been a good BI consultant, teacher and industry analyst all year long. I keep trying to help my customers get a better ROI from their BI efforts and keep getting into their data weeds (sources systems, big data piles, data silos and data shadow systems) to try to create consistent, conformed, clean, comprehensive and current information. I keep teaching graduate engineering students how to help their future employers handle data. I keep writing articles and even published a book, “Business Intelligence Guidebook: From Data Integration to Analytics”, to help BI folks.

But sometimes, actually very often, Santa, I feel like Don Quixote chasing the windmills.

Could you use your holiday magic to help out with this wish list? All I want for Christmas is:

  • Data shadow systems to stop being created. It used to be Microsoft Excel and Access were the tools of choice but business people now have self-service BI tools, such as data discovery tools, that enable them to build new data shadow systems. Excel and data discovery tools are NOT the problem though, the problem is business people need information now to do their jobs and cannot wait for IT to deliver it. IT and business have to start working together to fix the problems causing the data shadow systems.
  • Data and reporting silos to stop being a surprise. Cloud applications and SaaS (software-as-a-service) have many terrific benefits but the dark secret is each new application becomes a data and reporting silo if there is no planning either by IT in establishing a data architecture or business failing to establish data governance. This is not a plea to stop using deploying these application but rather for both business and IT to think before they jump.
  • End the hype! Big Data, Big Data, Big Data. No schemas, no effort, no problem and no results (that can be justified by the cost and effort.) Big Data is terrific but it is only part of the information puzzle and, sorry big data pundits, just a small pieces. Gartner says that big data has reached the peak of their Hype Cycle, maybe we should listen.
  • People to explain what they mean by self-service BI. Whenever anyone puts that on their BI requirements list or a BI vendor proclaims they have a tool that enables self-service BI nirvana I ask what does that mean? Do business people want to be report builders? Do business people want to mash data from various data silos that have inconsistent data? Do business people want to troll through social media babble? Business people want to be empowered to perform analysis on consistent, comprehensive and current data without putting in a “ticket” in the perpetual BI request backlog pool. Business people would like to get data, visualize it and analyze it. I’d like the self-service BI tools to come with a disclaimer that they work as demo’d if the underlying data is on consistent, comprehensive and current and that business people understand that self-service BI means more data governance not its abdication.
  • Cost effective BI and data integration solutions. The cost of many cloud-based applications and storage are very cost-effective but not everything has gotten cheaper. If you prepare a budget for even a midsize company to purchase on-premise or cloud-based subscriptions for BI and data integration you easily run into six or even seven figure costs – just for the software. When the vendors’ talk about their solutions having a lower cost of ownership (TCO) then legacy applications they are really just comparing overpriced tools with ridiculously over-priced tools. BI and data integration tools (on-premise or cloud-based) are still priced for Fortune 100 enterprise budgets and even then it is based on historical spending not now. Why has BI use by an enterprise information users been stalled for years? Why has Excel remained the BI tool of choice? All I want is cost-effective tools that will enable small to large enterprises to spread pervasive BI and data integration capabilities to their information users.

Thank you, Santa!

PS: I left cookies and Baxter’s Phantom Punch Winter Stout on the side of the fireplace. Hopefully those new solar panels on the roof did not cause a poblem for you.