Architectural Considerations when Democratizing Data – Part 1

When I see the phrase “democratizing data,” I think of ad-hoc. Do it yourself. Or from a more practical viewpoint – avoiding IT – at least from the end-user perspective. This is what defines the great divide – and the focus of this post.

Current thinking is that if accurate, timely data can be made available for end-user access, the business end-user will find ways to turn the data into valueable information. The following quote from Benjamin Disraeli applies to life and also to business:

“As a general rule the most successful man in life is the man who has the best information.”

Tableau Software makes a 2011 TDWI (The Data Warehousing Institute) whitepaper available here. The whitepaper says that self-service business intelligence (BI) is driven by:

  • Constantly changing business needs (65% of respondents).
  • IT’s inability to satisfy new requests in a timely manner (57% of respondents).
  • The need to be a more analytics-driven organization (54% of respondents).
  • Slow or untimely access to information (47% of respondents).
  • Business user dissatisfaction with IT-delivered BI capabilities.Balance is Key to Life

As soon as a discussion around self-service business intelligence(BI) begins, I see business people excited and happy, free from the data bondage which made their jobs more difficult.

Just as quickly, IT gets a worried look, wondering how this additional work load might affect performance, availability, and maintenance  of existing systems. These are legitimate concerns – there will be some affect. Systems are more likely to become plagued with run-away queries and unpredictable workloads. Do not worry – self-service does not mean unmanaged.  IT can, and should take some steps to isolate this new wordload from existing systems. How far you go is a decision you must make for yourself. Creating read-only, replacated copies of data, or getting more serious about that data wareshouse (DW), are all possibilities.  Make sure that all parties understand that there will be some affect, and you will work to acheive the appropriate balance between self-service access and other workloads.

These considerations and more will lead to you an architecture which is the best compromise between “data for everyone” and keeping the systems up and running well. We seek the best balance for our business.

In part 2, we will dig a little deeper into some of the needs of the business, and in part 3, we’ll revisit IT.

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