ROB: Traditionally, BI consulting firms “do BI” for their clients. How do you incorporate something that is inherently “self-service” into your approach? I think this is an unspoken worry in the BI industry: what is the mission of BI consultants in a world where your clients are supposed to be “doing” the BI?
NEELESH: We arm our clients with both the “tech” know-how AND the strategy know-how to manage their environment and continue to execute on their BI strategy after we are gone. We can never replace the collective wisdom and expertise that the business possesses. The point when everything changes, when this really takes off for our clients, is when the business information modeler, the Excel pro, gets sufficient Power Pivot training and environmental support. They start providing answers with dramatically improved speed and quality, but even more importantly, the quality of everyone’s questions rapidly rises as well.
ROB: Excel Pros. Power Pivot. Music to my ears. You’re on a roll, don’t let me interrupt.
NEELESH: We’ve always had business information modelers. We’ve just never had sufficient tools for them. Data capacity, auto-refresh, and the portability of logic that you talk about – while Excel is an incredibly flexible tool, it’s been missing those key ingredients until Power Pivot.
And just as important, when we’re talking about Enterprise-level BI, is to have IT and the business utilizing the same modeling language. With Power Pivot in the hands of the business and Tabular BISM in the hands of IT, there’s two-way communication even at the tech level. Critically important models developed by the business can now be embraced and managed by IT without having to rewrite them. Expert-level techniques (like formulas) developed by IT can be shared with the business.
I don’t think the IT report writers of today should be the Power Pivot modelers of tomorrow. We want a subset of the biz people doing that instead. The people who learned VLOOKUP or pivots in the past, we need them to be learning Power Pivot. But that isn’t happening yet most places – I see IT using Power Pivot for sure, but there’s a training gap standing between the biz and adoption.
ROB: Yeah it’s no accident that training is a huge focus for us at PowerPivotPro. Glad to hear that you think we’re on the right track. What other advice do you have for the people reading this?
NEELESH: First, I want to emphasize that Power Pivot IS Enterprise BI. I mean, what’s the definition of Enterprise BI? A single technology system that has “everything” in it?
An enterprise need is to also support departmental BI solutions (PowerPivot + SharePoint) which can grow to become enterprise (SharePoint + Tabular + ODS/DW) and all-pervasive down the road.
More importantly, it absolutely critical to allow departments to model, analyze and share insights for innovation and bring about changes in processes for the enterprise. What is BI? It’s tool to mentor others and share perspectives that helps change behaviors!
NEELESH: PowerPivot enables enable agility with Business Information. A holistic approach, strategy and system that addresses the needs of the Enterprise and harnesses all of the Enterprise’s wisdom and brain power.
Second, the biz needs to let IT handle certain things, and understand their importance. The ODS. The DW. The most business critical models developed by the business.
Third, IT also needs to get themselves out of the modeling and reporting business as much as possible, with the biz handling most of that. It’s a partnership between the biz and IT – a partnership that was impossible yesterday, because we lacked the right tools. This partnership is built on a solid operation system of business modeling – PowerPivot to DW. PowerPivot does not replace DW it enables better and more mature DW Design.
ROB: What about the folks who see the merit in all of this, but are struggling to convince the rest of their organizations? I hear from them a lot.
NEELESH: The people you are struggling to convince, you can send them to these two links – materials that explain the realities of agile BI:
- 10 Questions and Answers on Agile BI (blog post)
- Agile BI Strategy (video presentation aimed at IT and execs)
(There was a third link before, you can still get to it here, but it was really just an endorsement of my course so I removed it from the list – I’m glad for the recommendation but the intent here was to help you “sell” Power Pivot internally. The other two above are very much helpful for convincing your organization so let’s focus on those).
If they’re still not listening to you, give me a call, I’ll come talk to them. We are very confident in this direction, this methodology. To illustrate, we offer a jumpstart program – for $25k, we will work with you to produce a production BI system that matters. In four weeks or less.
ROB: Sounds too good to be true doesn’t it? Four weeks and $25k – in the BI world, traditionally you’d need another zero on each of those numbers, and to soften the assurance that it will matter. But I know firsthand just how much can be accomplished in a few days. Four weeks? No doubt you can have something amazing. I don’t care what your business looks like.
Hey man this was fascinating as always. Thanks for taking the time.
NEELESH: My pleasure. Let’s do it again soon.