Why Self-Service BI Needs Self-Service ERP and CRM Data Management

Writing recently on LinkedIn, Microsoft’s Eric Buck makes some thought-provoking points for users of Power BI, and those of self-service Business Intelligence tools in general.

In Self Service BI in an Enterprise World, Eric confirms that the explosion of data available to a business is transforming how we all work, and that the advent of self-service BI tools like Power BI – but also, equally, Tableau and Qlik, for example – “are helping organizations leverage these large data stores and make their data work for them.” But there’s an important caveat here, as Eric explains:

“One common theme though has been how restrictive and hard it has been for companies to provide both enterprise-ready reporting and accurate self-service BI options for their employees. How do we control the sources of truth for our end users? What tools can we use that are simple for less tech savvy individuals? How can we scale our BI solution to meet the needs of our industry?”

To my mind, there is a simple answer to all these questions. Self-service BI requires separate, self-service data management.

Why? Because most mid-size companies may well be cognizant of the data value proposition, and they may have invested in BI tools to get the most from it. But what they don’t have is the budget to staff up a data science department to extract the maximum value – and the maximum ‘truth’ – from their data via BI.

To obtain this maximum value, all areas of data management need to be tackled on an on-going, constant basis:

  • data collection
  • data modeling
  • data preparation
  • data warehouse
  • semantic layer
  • data integration
  • data governance
  • data security

Traditionally, all this has meant allocating budget and time to employ and coordinate a team of high-cost data engineers. Quite the opposite of self-service software!

Without even looking at the broader challenges of data source complexity and integration (from on-site ERPs to cloud-based CRM systems, for example), the bottom line is that most companies just can’t afford a data science department. While Eric’s piece promotes very well the capabilities of Power BI – and I couldn’t argue with a single one of them – it does not take into consideration that most mid-market companies don’t have a data scientist, let alone team of them.

The self-service BI world revolves around philosophies of ease-of-use and access-to-all.  In a practical, day-to-day context this might mean multiple users with manual, drag-and-drop data modeling capabilities and access to Microsoft Dynamics AX and Power BI.  And a net result of dozens of data conflicting models, and dozens of users not knowing if they are looking at the right data from the right source.  The dangers of this are real, and significant, as Eric warns:

“BI is a very strong tool, but it can make you more confident in inaccuracies if there was an error in the data prep or the queries used to generate the report…”

Can we assist?  We can.  ZAP Data Hub provides the self-service data management that self-service BI users require, IE those users with real business needs rather than degrees in data science.  And by self-service data management, we’re talking about something that’s as automated as it is sophisticated.  As user-friendly as it is flexible.

Click here to download a new data sheet explaining how ZAP Data Hub works with Power BI. We have additional data sheets for users of Tableau, Qlik and other self-service BI tools, too.

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