Self-Service Business Intelligence Tools – a new Approach

Because both the data warehouse and OLAP approaches fall short of business’ expectations for speedy and comprehensive analytical data access, a new approach surfaced - Self-service business intelligence (SSBI) tools.

The SSBI Technology

SSBI technologies like Qlik and Tableau introduced an approach to data analytics that enables business users to access and work with corporate information without the IT department’s involvement. These SSBI tools have the capability of ‘blending’ or locally integrating data from the data warehouse with any other data sources not stored in the data warehouse. This is accomplished through pulling copies of the data sources into a local data store where the analyst can ‘blend’ or integrate the data as needed.

Pitfalls of SSBI

These self-service tools are flexible and relatively easy to implement and provide a good level of independence for data analysts but there are clear disadvantages to the approach. The most prominent disadvantage is that data analysis performed in this manner quickly becomes unmanageable, resulting in redundant work, inconsistent results and in short, chaotic reporting practices when used on a broad scale throughout organizations. Since everybody has the ability to define their own rules and calculations, it is both possible and likely for different groups and individuals to calculate the same KPIs and metrics in different ways, leading to an array of conflicting results and the publishing of both confusing and contradictory information.

Because these solutions have no permissions structure, there is no security layer to protect sensitive data which is a severe vulnerability since analysts frequently and casually exchange data files. Also, the ability to transform the data is relatively limited in most cases. Further, because many machines are doing the same work for different users in parallel, powerful computer resources are being used inefficiently, contributing to rising costs and lower system performance. For all of these reasons, pure SSBI tools can fill a limited and short term need but fall short of being an end-to-end enterprise level analytical solution.

Advantages and Disadvantages of SSBI Tools

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