InetSoft Webinar: Ad Hoc Query and OLAP Tools Were the Sweet Spot for BI

This is the continuation of the transcript of a Webinar hosted by InetSoft in April 2018 on the topic of "Data Discovery Tools and End User Mashup" The speaker is Abhishek Gupta, Product Manager at InetSoft.

And I think that’s the mindset that a lot of us have had over the last 10, even like 20 years. I mean a lot of these ad hoc query and OLAP tools go back to the early ‘90s, and this notion of ad hoc query and OLAP is the sweet spot for BI. I mean I know I kind of grew up with that mindset that this is the sweet spot. If we can only deliver ad-hoc query and OLAP, we will be able to avoid the problems at the extremes.

And the epiphany I had was that ad hoc query and OLAP is not the sweet spot. If we focus on ad hoc query and OLAP, we overshoot our information consumers. No matter how easy we make it to build their own reports, they don’t want to do it themselves. They want someone else to build reports for them, and really interactive reports is the sweet spot for them.

Reports that were built where they can use prompts or parameters and drill in a very easy and guided way to information they want to see, but it’s very much an information consumption model. They are not creating their own reports. Along the same lines, if we are overshooting our information consumers, we’re undershooting our power users.

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So, basically our application, as well as the Qliks and Spotfires and Tableaus of the world are hAnd we have been giving our power users ad hoc query tools and OLAP cubes for 10 to 20 years now, which essentially is putting them in a straitjacket where we are basically saying hey you can drill up and down these dimensional hierarchies that are predefined, but you can’t go anywhere else. And that’s just too constraining with these folks.

They want to play and explore, they want to blend different data sets together. Once they’ve mashed up those data sets, they want to drill into those details of that data with unfettered drilling, which is why they live out in that far right world, the dark side of data dumps in Excel and Access because that’s where they have the freedom to do this.

And I think we need to recognize that there is a sweet spot for the power user that’s somewhere between ad hoc query and OLAP and these data dumps in Excel and Access, and that’s creating these data discovery tools where you do have the ability to blend data together from different data sources easily, you do have the ability to drill into the details of the data without being bound by a dimensional, hierarchical drill path.

And you can do a lot of the calculations and customize fields and calculations that you want to build in this data discovery world for power users to play in. I think the idea here is that we are blending this data together, doing lot of this analysis and creating interesting insights that then feed the reports and dashboards we give to our information consumers.

I want you to think about that as the process here, that the power users become the report builders with the help and guidance of IT where necessary, and they build dashboards and reports that then get promoted to information consumers. And we are going to talk a lot about that in some subsequent slides.

But the big epiphany here I think is that if you are just continually dishing out ad-hoc query and OLAP to users and are frustrated that it’s not getting the adoption that you want, I think we need to recognize that maybe we are digging in the wrong spot here, and maybe this is not the sweet spot, and we need to align the right capabilities and tools for various constituencies.

And by the way, there are more than just two constituencies here. I think we are going to break down information consumers and power users into more granular categories, but just for simplification sake, as a bare minimum, identifying these two very distinct categories is key. One is an information consumer who just wants to look at reports and dashboards that have been built for them, and the other is a power user who wants to not only consume but create new analytical views on their own.

So that’s the strategy section of this pitch. We talked about how one client recognized the problem and the different organizational approaches, and we talked about from a tool and technology standpoint this notion of getting the right sweet spot for the right user.

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