Andy on Enterprise Software

BI for everyone?

May 29, 2007

As usual, Philip Howard has some thoughtful comments on the subject of enterprise data warehousing. The recent plethora of data warehouse appliances, pioneered by Netezza but now popping up from companies ranging from start-ups to HP, certainly has the potential to change the data warehouse landscape. However as Philip points out, it is less clear that data warehouse appliances need be connected with” ubiquitous BI”. I have written previously st some length on my view that there is really no obvious reason for the “democratisation of data” i.e. with anyone in the company having unfettered access to corporate data using whizzy reporting tools. Quite apart from whether the tools are really cuddly enough (doubtful) the question rarely asked is why would this vision be necessary or even appropriate? There are certainly people in a company whose job it is to analyse data: they would be, er, analysts. Everyone else pretty much needs a limited set of data to get on with their jobs, and certainly I would be nervous if every factory worker and truck driver in a company decided to spend an hour or two a day investigating corporate data warehouses. A salesman needs a limited of set of numbers in a year: “here is your quota” while I struggle to see why people outside finance or marketing (and only a subset of those) really need to be spending their time wrestling with data at all.

To be sure one class of people benefits from a “BI tool on every desktop”: vendors, both BI vendors and those selling associated databases and hardware. I have yet to read any articles in Harvard Business Review from CEOs complaining that their profits would be higher if only every employee in the company had a BI tool. BI ubiquity seems to me a solution in search of a problem.

1 comment so far

I agree that unfettered access to a data warehouse for all employees doesn’t make total sense.

That said, a Sales person could make good value out of knowing that a prospect has downloaded a whitepaper from their website. They could then derive even greater value if that event “prospect downloading whitepaper” were wrapped in context of all other interactions with that person and others from the same company. Context which is potentially best derived from the data warehouse.

It’s not unfettered access, but it’s ++ value derived from unfettered awareness.

Business events are more actionable when contextual information can be associated to them and then that composite event routed to the right person or process for action. Success depends upon unfettered ability to use the data, but that’s not really unfettered access.



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