I just read an interesting article in BBC News – Microsoft unveils self-sketching whiteboard prototype, progressing Microsoft Business Intelligence, and I must concur and disagree with Brian Blau, a consultant analyst at Gartner, and is quoted in the article:
“The metrics have to be tailored for each one of these circumstances and companies are still likely to need experts in their own business to be able to run something like this if it’s to be useful.”
There are already Business Intelligence (BI) Analysts in most mid size to large firms across almost all sectors. These analysts already are creating custom reports using business intelligence tools, and then displaying these reports on multiple mediums. The prototype, it seems, Microsoft is proposing should expand BI to C suite executives, and also enhance the existing abilities of BI analysts, that is the hope. It does not seem the article is suggesting the removal of the Business Analysts; however, the hope in the BI world has been to try to get more executives to create dynamic reports, and visualizations. Although, typically C Suite executives ask their BI Analysts to generate `canned`, defined reports executives can export to their Powerpoint presentations. If this new prototype medium is similar to the intuitiveness Microsoft has recently brought to the table with the Surface, it`s possible we may see more adventurous executives trying to create reports; however, that may create new problems.
Business Analysis typically use a language called SQL, or Structured Query Language, although some BI tools try to abstract that layer, and provide the senior BI analysts or execs the layer of abstraction they can use, and more easily understand. Unfortunately, in many cases, a performance degredation occurs in generating the reports for any number of reasons, e.g. the executes create reports, which are well-meaning, but the non skilled execs not familiar with the intricacies of analytics, may create non-sensical reports, ie, ask the wrong questions, wastes database, or data warehouse resources, and eventually they get an answer to a question, which they didn`t mean to ask.
So in regards to Brian Blau`s quote, I would tend to agree with him after all, although the question C-Suite executives ask typically: I have all this information and technology, why can`t I access it directly. Answer: the way the data is stored is typically in a way which requires SQL, a skill set the C-Suite executives may not have or be very skilled at using. It`s not the sexyness of the medium that will eventually make this work, although it will make the execs salivate, it`s a layer of abstraction from the complexity of the data, which is easy for anyone to use, and is extremely efficient. Additionally, are advances in data warehouses which are making the analytical processing faster. We may be there, only time will tell.