Monday 10 February 2014

What is "self-service BI"?

I don't always get to sit in on the #BIWisdom TweetChat, hosted by Howard Dresner of Dresner Advisory Services - the time zone difference means that it is usually during my Friday commute - however, I was glad that I caught this weeks because it allowed me to articulate and explore my own ideas about what self-service BI is.  I used some analogies to help make my argument.

My first analogy was to imagine the delivery of BI as a self-service restaurant.  I said that self-service BI was the "user's ability to select what they want from the menu and eat it".

In this scenario, the "chef" will prepare the meals as he sees fit and present the finished plate for consumption.  The "diners" are able to select some different options and different combinations but they are beholden to the chef to make those options available.  The chef knows all the ingredients and has a good idea of what the diners will want to eat.  If the diners are bored with the menu, they can ask the chef for new recipes, but he will make the decision as to whether they can be delivered.

As the restaurant gets busier, more chefs will be employed.  It is important to then employ a restaurant manager to make sure that all the chefs are using the right ingredients and delivering the right dishes to the diners - nobody wants the get a sick stomach!

I think that this is the model of self-service that organizations will implement today.  It is not necessarily a bad model for them to use.  Centralize the data preparation and control what is delivered to the business.

The second analogy is of a grocery store.  In the store there is also a good range of "ready meals".  Someone has prepared these based on what they know shoppers will want to buy and many shoppers will go straight to this aisle and ignore the other produce - and why not, it gives them exactly what they need.

As well as the ready meals, there is a whole range of other food available, from partially processed down to raw.  More adventurous shoppers can pick what they want and then combine it however they choose, so as to create their own meals.  They take responsibility for whatever ends up on their plate.

In this scenario, the most important role is the store manager.  While he may have instructions from "head office" in the range of produce that will be offered, he is responsible to make sure that everything is fresh and edible - everything must be "FDA approved"!

Yep, it's good, old-fashioned, governance.  In either scenario, the important role is the one that prevents the diners from getting food poisoning.

Stephen Redmond is author of QlikView Server and Publisher and the QlikView for Developer's Cookbook
He is CTO of CapricornVentis a QlikView Elite Partner. We are always looking for the right people to join our team.
Follow me on Twitter: @stephencredmond

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