On the BI Platform, Again ...


I am working again on the theme of BI platform, since in my view it is becoming increasingly important. This time I am a bit more direct.

I have been to a conference, recently, where one of the new and rampant names in BI landscape was demoing its product. What struck me was one of the initial slides where the "Pendulum of BI " analogy was described. 

In the beginning (Just the end of '90s) there were many different BI vendors. Then, during the '00s, the pendulum swung toward a coalescence into few large platform harnessing all the elements of BI. Now the pendulum is swinging back again under the push of some innovative newcomers because, and this is the key element "Big and complex suites ultimately do not deliver what users want".

Well, what do users want, then, that is not delivered by the heavyweights?

  • Big platforms free users from SQL and MDX by their semantic layers while more "user oriented" tools always start from some sort of query (or from an Excel worksheet, that requires a query anyway).
  • Big platforms can federate different data sources while tools just integrate them client side.
  • Big platforms integrate the complex security required by an enterprise environment in a (relatively) easy management environment, tools often rely on database security.
  • Big platforms manage the way information is distributed by scheduling and profiling engines, integrated with security and event driven, while this is not always the case with some of the modern tools.
  • Big platforms let the workload being distributed among different servers or users workstations as the system designer sees fit, tools are end users tools.
  • Big platforms have more than one way to interact with users, tools have just one client.

I could go on but, is there anything that the users do not want in the list above? Is a coherent and integrated environment something that the users do not want? Not in my opinion, actually.

What the users do not want is a badly designed integrated system, that does not make use of all the right features. They do not want slow updates or rigid rules that force them to go back to IT for trivial tasks.

They want official data, certificated by IT, to be combined with other data on the fly on their clients.

Some of the "modern" tools really shifted the paradigm in term of pure usability and the capacity of doing data discovery and analysis. They produce a refined result faster than traditional clients, but they do so at the price of loosing control and coherence in the company data landscape. Even though the marketing message is not stressing the point, all the runner ups in the BI market are rushing to add enterprise features because they are well aware that this is what they need to conquer some of the big contract with the large organizations.

I will get back in the future to this subject, because in my view it is often overlooked. In the meanwhile, let's open the discussion!