In my last blog I talked about how you should leverage the expertise of your own in-house experts, such as category managers, to help with creating the business rules that allow you to run automated BI reports. Using their expert knowledge you can incorporate the nuances of product or data understanding that they have developed over years of experience, and create reports based on these insights, lessening the threats to your business from key-man dependencies.
Outside Experts Complement In-House Knowledge
But in recent user surveys BI professionals within end-user organisations have been reporting that their firms still look outside for data and analytics service providers to help them with their implementations and ongoing BI developments. In some places I have read that this figure could be almost 50% of decision makers and maybe another 20% on top of that this coming year.
Why is this? First we should remember that business knowledge and expertise with the running of any business doesn’t always necessarily translate into effectively organising this knowledge using the most powerful and up to date technologies.
It might be easy enough for an Expert in their field to construct a standalone report or suite of reports that replicate their previously manual analysis. But when it comes to best practices when scaling up these techniques to other areas of the business, the methodology and discipline to ensure data integrity, and to streamline an Enterprise wide BI tool is just not in their repertoire.
That’s where Experts from outside the organisation play their part. They may not have the detailed knowledge about seasonality or whatever key drivers are the domain of your in-house managers, but BI consultants and data integration experts have designed and delivered hundreds of applications over many years, with many diverse clients, so naturally they have tried and tested techniques and time-saving devices. They also know how to ensure that your BI application is robust and scaleable; and will stand up to the growth of your business. After all, most successful BI implementations are swiftly followed by a surge in profitability!
Secondly, whilst your in-house key experts are usually very efficient and get right to the heart of whatever insights will improve the position of your company in the marketplace, often using quick and dirty methods to get information out of your systems, they are not usually interested in spending their time documenting procedures, creating standards or preparing guidelines for others to follow them. In short, their success depends on the speed of their reactions and their predictions. This can be at the expense of a lack of documentation and data governance which is vital for an organisation whose coherence depends on it using one version of the truth.
The role of an external BI expert is crucial when it comes to guiding the organisation towards better alignment of its goals with its methods for achieving them. A trusted partner can help tame those maverick geniuses whose absences, planned or unplanned, can leave the company in dire straits. A disciplined project manager will ensure that automated routines are created and document the in-house experts’ knowledge to share it as far as possible with colleagues who don’t have the same experience.
Freedom v Governance – the Balance is Tipping Back.
This trend for management of an Enterprise wide BI platform is starting to replace the recent explosion of self-service analytics, where every person who was long-frustrated by the tight reins held on data access was suddenly like a kid in candy store, with the advent of free-to-use tools for data integration and visualisation. This freedom to explore data has been one of the biggest changes in the controlling power of IT departments in the last 30 years. It has many benefits but also a lot of dangers. The data is no longer governed by database managers and so the stories it tells are as varied and deceptive as the myriad of offerings and the people that use them. A managed, enterprise wide BI platform used by these same individuals seems to be the latest solution towards mitigating what was becoming an uncontrollable free-for-all.
About Debbie Lonsdale
Debbie Lonsdale has been working with the Diver Solution as a BI Consultant at Dynamic Business Informatics since 2008. Her previous experience includes computer programming, analytical and technical roles, team management, account management, sales and marketing in a variety of market sectors, including the Travel Industry and Distribution. She combines this experience as an all round ICT professional in the BI sector.