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Self-Service vs. Managed BI

By Steve Jones,

I was in a mini-debate recently on Twitter. I'm not sure Twitter lends itself to any other type of debate, and in this case I would have preferred a longer way to engage the person. I had tweeted that I liked PowerPivot as a new tool for people, but another used posted back that it was bad for IT and traditional BI projects. This individual noted that it might cause some other BI projects to be shelved, or put on hold, when they could really bring value to the business, because someone could get by with Powerpivot. Perhaps when the business could really benefit from something more like a traditional BI project.

Yes, that's true, but…

In my two decades of work in IT, there is one thing that I've seen over and over. It could be inside companies of any size or a part of new start up ventures. There seems to be this idea from all developers, and DBAs, that they have the solution. They know what to build and they'll build a wonderful piece of software the first time. They might be right, but it's not likely.

Too often we don't build the best software the first time. It's certainly not all our fault since there are plenty of business people that "think" they know what they want, but they really don't until they see something.

And then start asking for a new piece of software, or substantial modifications to what they have.

Building software is hard, and as I spend more time in this business I think that building something great takes time. Like fine whiskey, it must age, mellow, and be tended along the way. It's not like a house where everything is planned from the start, but more like an evolving Formula-1 car that is tweaked and tuned with the user inside of it.

I think that self-service BI with a tool like PowerPivot makes perfect sense. Get the user doing something, or a whole series of somethings, and then take the most valuable ones, the ones that make the most sense, and invest in them as a larger scale BI project.

Steve Jones


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