BI: On The State of Relations Between IT & End Users
EDITOR’S NOTE: Tom Carroll was a Dataspace consultant in the late 1990′s. He left for an IT job at GM which quickly morphed into a finance job for GM’s OnStar subsidiary. Tom was, effectively, the person on the user side at OnStar who was responsible for delivering financial reports to management. We were thrilled when, in May, Tom came back to Dataspace as a lead consultant. Not only does he have about 20 years of BI experience but he now, also, has the perspective of a user.
I am excited to the back at Dataspace after an 11 year absence. While I was gone I learned a whole lot about what it means to be a business intelligence end user, and over the course of a few postings I’d like to share some of what I’ve learned. While much of what we read about data warehousing and business intelligence is focused on technology, it really is the end user that will determine whether your warehouse effort is successful or not.
Regardless of What IT Says, I Have a Job to Do
I guess the first dirty secret is that reporting end users really don’t care much about IT and its issues. Are you shocked or insulted by this? Don’t be. The end user has a job to do and is being evaluated on whether and how well they get that job done. If IT can help them do their job, that’s great, but if not the job still has to be done. Having trouble getting that tax data loaded to the warehouse? OLAP cube didn’t build last night due to database issues? Guess what, the books still have to be closed so as an end user I’m going to come up with some other way to get it done. It may not be 100% correct, but as an end user I don’t have time to wait for IT to figure out its problems.
The Tool I Use to do That Job? Excel
Second, all those crazy spreadsheets and Access databases that have popped up in Finance and other departments over the years? You know, the ones you’ve tried to analyze in order to ferret out reporting and data requirements? In almost all cases those are the result of end users coming up with the best solution they can muster using the tools they know best and whatever data they have access to. Not to disparage all end users, but when it comes to designing data stores, they wouldn’t be my first stop (big surprise, huh?). Not that they’re not smart people, but it’s just not their area of expertise. Given easy access to well-structured, integrated and more complete data (can you say data warehouse?) that solves their problem, they (or at least their management) would get rid of them in a heartbeat.
So what do you think? What is the state of the relationship between IT and end users in your organization? Are there any processes or user groups in your organization that help to foster this relationship? I look forward to hearing your thoughts.