BI: On the State of Relations Between IT and End Users

Over the years, we have learned a whole lot about what it means to be a business intelligence end user, and we’d like to share some of what we’ve learned. While much of what we read about data warehousing and business intelligence is focused on technology, it really is the end user who determines whether your warehouse effort is successful or not. 

Regardless of What IT Says, I Have a Job to Do

I guess the first dirty secret is that reporting end users really don’t care much about IT and its issues. Are you shocked or insulted by this? Don’t be. End users have a job to do and are being evaluated on whether or not and how well they get that job done. If IT can help them do their job, that’s great, but if not, the job still has to be done. Having trouble getting that tax data loaded to the warehouse? OLAP cube didn’t build last night due to database issues? Doesn’t matter to end users. The books still have to be closed, so they will come up with some other way to get it done. It may not be 100% correct, but end users simply don’t have time to wait for IT to figure out its problems. 

The Tool I Use to do That Job?  Excel

You know all those crazy spreadsheets and Access databases that have popped up in Finance and other departments over the years? You know – the ones you’ve tried to analyze in order to ferret out reporting and data requirements? In almost all cases, those workarounds are the result of end users coming up with the best solution they can muster,using the tools they know best and whatever data they have access to. Not to disparage all end users, but when it comes to designing data stores, this is not really their area of expertise. That doesn’t mean they’re not smart – it just means it’s not their job to design data stores.Given easy access to well-structured, integrated and more complete data (can you say data warehouse?) that solves their problem, they (or at least their management) would happily get rid of these workarounds in a heartbeat.

 So how can the tension in the relationships between end users and IT professionals be eased?  How can these groups work together more productively to lead to better outcomes? Are there any processes or user groups in your organization that help to foster this relationship? I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

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