It has become all too common for clients to request data dumps instead of true Business Intelligence reports. As a Business Intelligence developer, I expect to be given report requirements, but in many cases, the document asks for a straight pull of data tables and seems to lack data analysis or added business value. So, I ask, when will this trend end?
I am trained to develop reporting solutions with a multitude of BI tools and feel that my skillset is wasted creating ordinary data dumps. After experiencing this phenomenon a few times, I have found the problem to be the requester's lack of data access and desire to do his/her own analysis in Microsoft Excel. Rather than make use of the organic power of the BI tool, they take the data dumps and work in a tool with more familiarity. Mind you, many of these end-users are fantastic pivot table creators, chart wizards, and Excel coders, which I give them credit for. But, then how am I there to provide value as a BI developer?
I take the approach of not just being a developer, but also as a valuable advisor. I work with the end-user and help him/her understand how the reporting tool can do the analysis, saving hours of effort each week. The first step is to talk about the requirements to ensure we are capturing everything initially asked for. Next, we work through the intended purpose of the new report. This usually starts a much larger conversation about custom calculations, preferred data organization, and using VLOOKUPs to merge data between reports. The list goes on. As this conversation continues and the end-user starts to understand that I know what they go through and what the end game is, I show them the power of the BI tool and some other reports that I have built which do similar activities. Now the requester's intrigue is captured and the real report design session begins. The outcome of which is a report with actual data analysis and true value, not just another data dump.
So, I asked in the beginning of this rant, "When will this trend end?" Well, it can end now with you, the BI developer. Partner with the end-user to explore the advantages of BI tools rather than just delivering another bland data dump.