I recently spoke with Klaas Doornbos from the Dutch publication Computable about the evolution of business intelligence (BI) solutions, and how these solutions have moved from a “Me BI” approach—where freedom of the individual user ran rampant—to one of collective, collaborative “We BI.” The article appeared in Dutch, but I’ll recap the basic gist of it here in this post, mixed with other thoughts I have on the subject.
From the individual to the collective
Data-driven operations and decisions are here to stay for the foreseeable future. Also, BI and analytics are burrowing their way deeper and deeper into organizations, increasingly expanding beyond previously existing boundaries, with more and more user roles getting involved, relying upon, and sharing quality data. The trajectory continues to move from the individual to the collective.
As part of this expansion of BI and analytics, in today’s enterprises we’re seeing the importance and value of BI that has self-service, quick deployment and content creation, ease, and agility for users, yet that’s architected for enterprise governance, scalability, security, sharing, and content collaboration—all these elements are essential for true “We BI” rather than “Me BI.”
Looking at how BI has evolved over the years, we can certainly see that BI has come a long way from its roots.
Starting out as IT-centric BI
Initially, BI solutions were in the domain of the IT department, who exerted tight control over what users could do with the data. This model had several pitfalls: first, business users were completely dependent on the IT department to create reports, dashboards, and other content. These users craved the ability—and agility—to get access and dive into the data themselves. The IT department, in turn, was that much more taxed, in terms of handling all the needs of business users across the enterprise. This approach toward BI proved to be costly and ineffective.
Enter user-centric, self-service BI—“Me BI”
This IT-centric approach to BI solutions, where data was tightly controlled, eventually gave way to an approach that was, in essence, diametrically opposed to it—where business users now had absolute freedom with data. In this shift of approach, users could freely and easily download BI tools to their desktops, without the knowledge of the IT department. They had free rein to serve themselves an abundant helping of the data they wanted, thus taking control into their own hands.
Having this freedom in the “Me BI” approach, nonetheless, essentially backfired. Without some degree of controls to make sure that the data is governed, structured, trustworthy, and secure, any logic or conclusions derived from the data become suspect. It’s hard to collaborate efficiently when everyone speaks a different language, or where the elements of the language have different shades of meaning, from one person to the next. Chaos easily ensues, and it becomes hard to realize a return on investment (ROI) of BI in this individualistic, “Me BI” model.
Striking a healthy, empowering balance with “We BI”
When the limitations of this freedom, so to speak, became clear, the BI pendulum made its way to the center, striking a nice balance between being IT-centric and user-centric. Rather than being all about “Me,” in the equilibrium of the “We BI” approach, it’s all about collaboration, where people across the enterprise now have a shared language. The governed nature of “We BI” offers shared, trustworthy business logic, data modeling, and content.
Through this model of “We BI,” the environment is replete: it’s both self-service and structured. Data is stored on a central server rather than on individuals’ desktops, thereby removing data silos that pervade the individualist, “Me BI” approach, and that lead to disjointed, untrustworthy data and muddled results.
With “We BI,” it’s exciting that nobody needs to compromise between giving up freedom and giving up control of the data. The ROI of BI couldn’t be greater, thanks to “We BI.” Everyone wins!
Original Publication Article: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/business-intelligence-trend-2015-beyond-david-brierley
- Van ‘MeBI’ naar ‘WeBI’ (article in Dutch).
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