What Line of Business Managers Want: BI without IT

Self-service BI is a worthy strategy that lets managers circumvent IT to get key data fast, says Aberdeen. But it's a risky idea

It's a story familiar to most battle-tested CIOs: Business managers going around IT to get the application they want for their departments and users.

That same, tired storyline is playing out once again—as it has with other enterprise software apps in the past, such as with SaaS CRM and salesforce automation. This time around it's business intelligence.

The tale goes something like this: Business meets recession; CEO cuts IT spending. But users want new data insights! But IT can't spend resources! Then business meets SaaS company, users like functionality, and LoB manager likes price. Sold! IT stays in the dark.

A new Aberdeen research report, "Self-Service BI: Empowering the Line-of-Business Manager," examines this unfolding trend. (The survey material is based on responses from 223 global LoB managers and is free to download with registration. Grain-of-Salt Intake: The survey was sponsored by Noetix, a maker of BI software and services for enterprise applications.)

It's a sobering read for any IT exec wondering why he's been overlooked by LoB managers. "Today's LoB managers need to make quicker decisions based on cleaner and more relevant information," writes Aberdeen senior BI research analyst Michael Lock. "Waiting for a report to make its way through an IT queue is no longer an option as timely decisions carry a higher business premium than ever before."

I don't think any of us would argue with the "New Normal" demands that have been thrust upon businesses today: "I feel the need...the need for speed" is as relevant for today's company as it was for Top Gun pilots in 1986.

And yet there's something disconcerting about a report such as this that openly advocates for the distermediation of IT from such a critical corporate strategy. (Ah, what the heck: like when Maverick first tries to fly again after losing his long-time R.I.O. Goose, and Mav mutters this, as he's attempting to engage: "It doesn't look good.")

It doesn't look good. Aberdeen's Lock terms this tech trend "self-service BI," noting:

In order to satisfy the growing need for business visibility and decision support, many organizations are exploring a self-service delivery model for analytical capability. With this type of approach, companies reduce or eliminate IT intervention in the deployment and support of BI tools and allow for analytical curiosity to run its course with the LoB managers. A self-service model also creates an environment wherein analytical views, reports, and models can be created, applied to data and distributed to a wider audience within the organization.

My favorite term in there is "analytical curiosity," since all IT folks know that an analytical curiosity can quickly change to analytical despair, then analytical rage—and then you know who'll be getting the call to clean up the systems and software mess.

Like Maverick in "Top Gun," Aberdeen's Lock attempts to redeem himself near the end of the report.

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