Big Data Amplifies Need for Self-Service Business Intelligence

In today’s fast-paced, consumer-driven world, major corporations such as Visa, MasterCard, Facebook, and Google are turning to Big Data technologies such as Hadoop to analyze massive amounts of business transaction and application data. I recently had a problem with a large multi-national firm, one that refused to resolve despite numerous phone calls. However, one post on the company’s Facebook page, along with a quick mention on Twitter, and I had corporate suits lining up to solve my issue. This is a great indicator of the way advanced analytics are being utilized not only on billions of dollars of trade value, but also the social aspect of the information world.

The hype around Big Data seems to grow exponentially week-by-week. Simply put, when it comes to the ways companies handle their data, Big Data is going to be one of the biggest disrupters in the past 20 years.

Organizations that don’t start planning now to adjust their internal structures and procedures to deal effectively with the explosion will quickly be left behind. Achieving the capability to analyze this data will require a paradigm shift in the way IT geeks and business suits think about their roles in the provision of data governance, delivery and analysis. The business suits will need to rethink their roles within the organization—they must be involved to a much greater extent in the way B.I. solutions are placed within the company. Meanwhile, IT geeks will be required to support the business by delivering integrated, clean, and secure data for B.I. applications.

Over the past few years, business teams and management have begun to catch on to what B.I. consultants and data management professionals have long preached: data must be managed as an asset. To support this, companies need a new type of agile B.I. and analytics to keep pace with these changing needs: true self-service business intelligence.

The drivers for self-service B.I. usually are defined as:

  • Constantly changing business needs
  • Inability to match the speed of business change
  • The need to be a more analytics-driven organization
  • Slow or untimely access to information

With the business user demanding to “just get it done,” typical B.I. relationships are being turned upside down. The modern data-driven company has no choice but to make business decisions more quickly and efficiently. This need for speed, or “Business Intelligence Right Now” (what I like to call BIRN), drives executives to demand B.I. tools capable of providing insight whenever, wherever and however possible. With the rise of Big Data, this problem will be compounded by the business’ need to understand the value of its fast-growing data stores, and the need to empower teams to gain insight from data analysis. I believe, in today’s multi-dimensional data world, the CIO and his colleagues are going to have to accept some hard truths:

  • They no longer control all the data within the enterprise.
  • They can only provide a guarantee of data governance for those data stores they control.
  • They will have to provide or support some type of self-service B.I. tool for the business user.

Management is already demanding more control. According to industry analysts, business unit spend on B.I. tools has increased by some 40 percent in the past four years. This indicates that, ready or not, the current B.I. approach—the never-ending stream of business requests that IT cannot keep up with—has become unsustainable. Workers are dissatisfied with the speed at which they can get access to the information they need, in the format they want, to help them make decisions as fast as the economic climate dictates.

The successful company of the future will be the one that embraces Big Data and all the associated challenges. This means providing a self-service option for users to connect to data sources both inside and outside the enterprise, so they can analyze and visualize that data, and collaborate with their colleagues to gain rapid insight into their particular marketplace.

The explosion of Big Data is on the horizon and fast approaching. As the wording on your car’s passenger-side mirror states: “Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear.” Enterprises that don’t start planning now to adjust their organizational structures and procedures will be left in the dust.


Peter Evans is Business Intelligence product evangelist at Quest Software, and a recognized expert in business intelligence and data warehousing. Follow him on Twitter using @evansbi, and read his blog at

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