Chris Webb
Director, Crossjoin Consulting Limited

Nowadays, some people would have you think that the business intelligence world (BI) is divided between the dinosaurs in the IT department on one hand and the hot-shot power users from the business side on the other. The distinction between these groups is supposedly mirrored by the types of software they use: The IT guys use old, expensive, slow, ugly, “corporate” BI tools, while the power users are agile and responsive and create beautiful data visualisations with the fancy new breed of self-service BI tools.

This separation is convenient from a marketing point of view because it draws a line between the past, with all its harsh realities, failures and compromises, and a new generation of software, which like every new generation of software will magically solve all your problems and allow you to be hundreds of times more productive. The problem is I don't believe any of this stands up to scrutiny.

First, anyone with experience in BI projects knows that to have any chance of success, the IT guys and the power users have to work together. This is true for corporate BI projects just as much as self-service BI projects: You need the technical skills of the IT guys and the business knowledge of the power users. The new generation of self-service BI tools might enable power users to take on more of the technical work, but in doing so, they don't make the IT guys completely redundant. You need someone with a strong technical background to prepare and model data, create a data warehouse, and even to help the power users use their self-service tools. 

Second, it's clear that the new self-service tools are not the exclusive domain of power users. The ease of use of these tools, coupled with the ever-increasing demand for all forms of BI and analytics, means that more and more people from all kinds of backgrounds and with all kinds of skills are using them. The power users, the business analysts, the accountants, the actuaries… all are using them. Old-school BI consultants like me are using them. Other people are using them, too. In the IT department, I see developers, DBAs, and system administrators using them. In academia, scientists and researchers are using them. In the media, journalists are using them. 

All of this brings me back to my main point: In reality, there is no division between IT and the business. Self-service BI tools are being used by everyone, and we are all power users now.

IT pros and power users alike can get hands-on with business analytics at Chris’s upcoming BA Conference session, MDX for PowerPivot Users, and save $150 on registration with discount code BASF5O.