15 years ago the buzz in the business intelligence and data warehousing world was ad hoc reporting – let end users at all levels generate their own reports. Billions of dollars were spent on enterprise reporting tools that more often than not proliferated hoards of redundant or one-off reports that in turn begat large catalogs so business users could attempt to zero in on which of the often hundreds and in some cases thousands of reports might hold critical information they needed for their work. Much data was exported from these reports into spreadsheets where the data was further manipulated to make it easier to analyze, sometimes blend with data from other sources and to share with others. This data found its way into spreadsheets, presentations and emails. This was good – important, relevant data was in the hands of decision makers.
But, sometimes bad decisions were made and root-cause analysis uncovered errors in the information that had been passed around to make the decisions. Poor data quality tracing back to the source or introduce as the data was blended, shaped and formed for consumption created the errors. This was bad – the data was unreliable. CIO’s were charged to never let such mistakes happen again and they reacted by locking down data, requiring it to be sanctioned and come only from trusted and blessed sources. Data became trapped behind walls of requests and approvals and this in turn slowed the flow of information. This was worse – decisions were delayed or forced to be made without important information.
Business leaders often reacted to this slowing of the information flow by finding ways to skirt measures taken to ensure information integrity and reliability. This of course was not done out of spite or malice, but out of necessity. IT uncovered holes in its data armor and patched them. This has become a repeated cycle. Opening a fire hose of data and allowing decisions to be made based on unreliable data is clearly unacceptable, but encumbering the flow of information is also unacceptable.
The business users’ appetite for timely, relevant and reliable information must be addressed. Fortunately there are technologies and methods that have evolved to help address this problem. Business decision makers are learning to articulate acceptable tolerances for timeliness and quality of information and IT is responding by breaking down the data gates and leveraging tools that allow business users to self-serve with confidence. My colleagues and I will be exploring this topic in more detail in the coming days on the Mariner Blog.