Research@DBTA: Making BI Accessible to the Enterprise

Opportunities abound for organizations that are able to gain insight into customers, sales, markets, and processes, by analyzing data culled from a myriad of sources across the enterprise. This rich information can enable executives, managers, and professionals to answer questions never possible before. As a result, for the companies that are able to provide business decision makers with quick and efficient access to BI or analytic data from which they can create their own interfaces and reports, competitive advantage can be realized.

However, today’s BI systems still present challenges to achieving the full benefit of enterprise data, according to a survey of 250 data managers and professionals, conducted by Unisphere Research, a division of Information Today, Inc., for Tableau Software. Respondents to the survey are among the readership base of Database Trends and Applications.

Although the research shows a trend toward self-service BI systems that can help decision makers more easily gain meaningful information, organizations are still behind when it comes to making such capabilities pervasive across their organizations. In addition, questions about data quality, data timeliness, and organizational support need to be addressed, the survey finds.

The latency of BI information, difficulty in using tools, and challenges in finding appropriate data are the main complaints heard about today’s business intelligence and analytic systems, according to the survey. In addition, only a handful of people in respondents’ organizations have direct access to the information they need.

Self-service BI is now offered to some extent in half of the organizations surveyed. However, in most companies, fewer than one out of 10 employees have access to BI and analytic systems.

To download a copy of the survey report, authored by Joe McKendrick and titled "Opening Up Business Intelligence to the Enterprise - 2012 Survey of Data Professionals on Self-Service BI and Analytics," go to 


Since many of the survey’s respondents were data managers in charge of information delivery for BI and analytics systems, they have seen for themselves the frustration users are experiencing with their current environments. A majority of respondents, 52%, cite issues with the latency of information—which they say needs to be delivered faster or be more timely to make a difference. 

BI and Analytics Challenges

Information needs to be delivered faster or be more timely - 52%
Tools and solutions need to be easier to use - 41%
Information is too difficult to find across organization - 39%
Cost and budget barriers have to be overcome - 37%
Data sources require greater integration - 35%
Need better ways to manage increasing data volumes - 33%
IT or data management departments take too long to respond to reporting requests - 30%
Reliability, consistency, or quality of available data not up to par - 29%
Need more appropriate training/guidance - 25%
Need to streamline amount or variety of BI/analytics tools - 20%
Difficult to comply with mandates/regulations pertaining to data - 11%
Data security needs to be improved - 8%
Don't know/unsure - 5%
Other - 2%

In addition, 41% of the respondents report that members of their organizations are experiencing difficulty with the complexity of tools and solutions. Almost two-thirds of respondents, 39%, also report that they and their end users have difficulty finding the right information needed in data stores across their organizations.

Decision makers or information workers may not have access to many existing BI solutions or environments, which are made available to only IT and selected power users. A reliance on a few information gatekeepers to answer critical business questions results in decision makers’ frustration with delays, while also heaping more responsibility on already stressed IT departments.

Yet, a fundamental hindrance to more widespread access to BI isn’t provisioning portals and dashboards, the survey finds. Instead, it is a lack of a unified view of the enterprise. There tend to be many different types of BI and analytic solutions and tools scattered across enterprises.

The most prevalent tool employed for BI, in fact, is a spreadsheet, which serves as an ad hoc workaround to the restraints of online enterprise data. More than three-quarters of respondents, 78%, report that a spreadsheet is their primary BI tool. In addition to spreadsheets, there is also a wide range of other tools and solutions employed in respondents’ organizations, including dashboards (65%), standard reports (62%), data warehouses (57%), and data mining. Many of these solutions don’t integrate completely, resulting in siloed views of the business.