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Disruptive BI

Friday April 21, 2017

Our guest blog this week is from our Founder and Visionary, Richard Lewis. Richard explores how IT can give users what they want in a world where DIY apps empower users to make their own decisions.

Can Disruptive BI be Constructive?

The technology landscape is changing. The cost of software is reducing whilst the amount of software being used by SMEs and large-scale enterprises is increasing – particularly the adoption of Cloud based services (SaaS, IaaS, PaaS, etc.), and innovations around upcoming trends such as new innovative smart technologies and the Internet of things.

For IT departments, this is not just disruption to the norm – it’s chaos!

Gartner like to use the term ‘disruptive IT’, but what exactly does that mean in reality? The Oxford English Dictionary suggests the following…

disruptive – adjective

  1. causing trouble and therefore stopping something from continuing as usual
  2. changing the traditional way that an industry operates, especially in a new and effective way

IT departments that have to rigidly enforce governed access to data and applications through locking down administration capabilities on workstations are fighting a losing battle – especially with the widespread adoption of web-based SaaS tools that do not require anything to be installed locally, and the growing dissatisfaction with traditional enterprise tools.

Control is good but control is also restraining. Users want to be more efficient with their time, less dependent on the IT department, and ultimately improve day-to-day working – restricting this is a paradox from a business efficiency and improvement perspective.

Let’s face it, times are changing.

IT departments seek control as uniformity is easier to support and manage. Therein lays the rub. Business users also seek control. Business users, who are under constant pressure to deliver results, do not want to conform to the corporate rulebook if it means missing out on a deal or saving them from being slowed by the ‘data to insight bottleneck’ – especially if information requests can instead be harvested by using a £15 a month SaaS service they subscribed to this morning over the web.

SaaS services are a form of liberation to users with locked down laptops (providing they don’t have Internet Gateway Police stopping the fun) and whilst being disruptive to IT are a god send to users as they are able to gain control of their own destiny. Making their own choices of what to use, using apps they like, apps that they find easy to use, apps that make their job easier, is a no-brainer.

But on the flip side, more SaaS apps means more contracts to review, more potential vulnerabilities in IT infrastructure and less cohesion towards a consistent enterprise software strategy.

So how do we resolve the conflict between IT seeking order and users seeking liberation?

SMEs that have their enterprise databases such as Oracle, DB2, Teradata or SQL Server and their enterprise applications such as JD Edwards, SAP, Dynamics, Oracle Financials etc. are likely to have these systems locked down.

All of these systems will include copious amounts of reporting and provide tools for power users and SQL / OLAP experts to potentially build their own reports off standard pre-defined views and cubes.

Inevitably, however, for many users finding the correct information for ad-hoc data requests or combining data from the corporate warehouse with other data sources – such as spreadsheet data or data off the web to feed into their CRM system – can end up forcing the user to resort to give up on requesting data extracts and instead use their own tools / expertise to wrangle the data necessary for them to do their job.

IT needs to find a compromise.

New technologies are emerging and becoming mainstream that are specifically designed for self-service. Self-service Data Preparation (or Data Wrangling), Search-driven BI, Smart Data Discovery and Prescriptive Analytics tools all help business users to produce the outputs they want without resorting to SQL, EXCEL spreadsheets or haranguing IT for bespoke reports and data marts.

These tools provide the freedom to end users expected from SaaS apps whilst retaining the security and governance controls expected from traditional enterprise software deployments.

Putting self-service analytic tools over the top of the corporate warehouse and enterprise business applications allows IT to regain control over the IT infrastructure and reduce if not eliminate the need for users to subscribe to bespoke SaaS services, whilst maintaining data governance and protecting the running of essential operational systems.

Finding tools that are easy to use, agile and enhance traditional methods of reporting can be difficult and is often overlooked by busy IT teams in favour of the more traditional BI and Data Warehouse setup.

The fresh perspective provided by Data Wrangling and Smart Data Discovery tools can accelerate the rate of business change following the adoption of a mainstream Data Warehouse and BI platform.

Rather than users doing their own thing and potentially “causing trouble and therefore stopping something from continuing as usual”, adopting new innovative methodologies can “change the traditional way that an industry operates, in a new and effective way”.

Turn that bad disruption into cohesive business practice!

Richard Lewis, Founder & Director of Business Strategy, Connexica Ltd