“If your only tool is a hammer, every problem becomes a nail” – Abraham Maslow
In B.I. inappropriate tool-sets are often delivered because the decision makers simply don’t see another option. See my recent blog post on path dependence.
The square peg that awaits many unwary business round holes is the predominance of the Data Warehouse and bespoke reporting solution as a catch all for both complexity and high data volumes. This is often proposed as a knee-jerk solution for any requirement that could possibly be defined as requiring a reporting solution.
The business side of the enterprise is understandably wary of implementing Data Warehouses and complex technical solutions so often Excel abuse ensues. Excel is an incredibly well crafted data analysis tool designed for single users. When we try to link Excel into business processes we create a massive legacy for the future. This however, bearing in mind the costs and pains of Data Warehousing and flavour of the month reporting solutions is the way that many businesses go.
Hence the market is ripe for Self-service B.I. A way for a department to solve it’s own problems with data extracts that it can manipulate.
The three technologies that have made Self-service BI possible are; in memory databases, column oriented databases and high data compression.
These technologies have emerged at a time when memory costs have dropped significantly and 64bit client operating systems and machines are being adopted in the mainstream. This means that I can import 8 million row database extracts into PowerPivot on my laptop and analyse it after importing data from a variety of other sources to combine it with.
What all of this means is that the poster child of self-service BI, MS PowerPivot, is perfectly positioned to become the must have Data Analysis toolkit.
Lined up against MS are the contenders, one of which, Tableau, I reviewed recently. The big question about Tableau, Qlikview and the like is; are they really delivering Self-service B.I?
Surely Self-service B.I. by definition means I go to get it myself. With PowerPivot I can link into my PowerPivot workbook pretty much any data source on an ad-hoc basis. That is true Self-Service!