Most businesses use business intelligence tools centered around enterprise intelligence or self-service data discovery. Enterprise – or “traditional” – business intelligence tools have been around for decades, and self-service (i.e. data discovery) technologies have increasingly gained popularity in the last few years. The question for businesses has now become, “should we use large-scale enterprise solutions or newer, faster self-service ones for our business intelligence needs?”
Traditional enterprise tools have more sophisticated governance, scalability and enterprise-level capabilities than self-service tools. Timo Elliot of SAP simplifies the definition of data governance as “stopping people from doing stupid things with data.” Traditional BI technologies place more emphasis on controlling and securing data between IT and business users, so it’s logical that enterprise tools trump self-service tools in governance. They extensive reach of these tools also lends them to being more easily scaled as businesses grow and have a wider scope than their self-service counterparts.
Self-service tools have their own set of pros, too, like decreasing the time to deployment and easy-to-use user interfaces. What they lack in areas like data governance make it easier to access, analyze and generate visuals for users. Gartner highlighted the desire to improve self-service capabilities in its Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence and Analytics Platforms in 2015 by stating: “Gartner inquiries and survey data suggest that, increasingly, companies would like to expand their use of, and even standardize on, data discovery platforms for their larger enterprise BI deployments, but find that in many cases these platforms lack the necessary enterprise features in relation to governance, administration, and scalability (among other things).”
It seems the real question businesses should be asking is, “how can we build a better BI solution from enterprise and self-service tools to satisfy our needs?” Currently, there’s no solution out there that perfectly marries traditional BI with self-service technologies, but that doesn’t mean an all-inclusive solution is impossible. Both platforms have their benefits, the challenge now is to create a new technology that can harmoniously merge the two. Timo Elliot discusses what is needed for successful BI programs in a blog post from 2010. While BI technology has changed in the last 6 years, the underlying principles he features still hold true.
Elliot focuses on the need to design a business intelligence platform that focuses on a changing business, people-centered industry, some form of data access, telling stories about data history, and “sticking with it” (i.e. building a platform that’s meant to last). Rather than promoting one type of BI strategy over another (self-service versus enterprise), Elliot’s discussion suggests that businesses should look to build a solution that fits their needs. There are elements of both enterprise and self-service tools that are useful to any business. The challenge now is to successfully integrate the two into one solution.