Insufficient data from Andrew Fryer

The place where I page to when my brain is full up of stuff about the Microsoft platform

Illicit Reporting

A big thanks to all the IT professionals out who spotted my poor English in the 27th Sep Technet flash from George and in this post.  Intelli-sense is still no substitute for intelligence, but I do quite like the idea of Illicit feedback rather than elicit feedback!

I also got an e-mail questioning whether end user reporting ever works in practice which included this paragraph-

“Trying to empower the users often backfires. The IT department ends up writing tons of SQL Views, queries, new tables, jobs to populate these tables, all in an attempt to present the data to the users in a format they can understand and work with. Add to that the cost of training the users. And they inevitably turn around and ask for something that isn’t covered by the view/query/table. Until eventually everyone realises it was much more efficient and less error-prone just to send the report request to the IT department in the first place.”

In my opinion this is certainly true in some organisations and comes back to one of my posts about being ready for business intelligence and the relationship between the IT department and the business.  There are many organisations where end user reporting is alive and well and this takes on several forms:

  1. The users are given a tool such Business Objects or Cognos and the IT departments are involved by creating a semantic layer between the data and the tool.
  2. The users are given raw access to the source data and connect to it from Excel or Access using MS Query.  Hopefully the IT department are aware of this and limit access to what they can do to avoid runaway queries etc.
  3. The users get hold of sets of data from fixed reports or extracts provided by IT and then do whatever they like with this.  An extreme example I am aware of is where Business Objects reports are saved to Excel and then used to load up SAS statistical models so the reports have essentially turned into ETL scripts.

It is option 1 where I see the new report designer preview tool in SQL server 2008 being used provided that the data is sourced from a report model designed by the IT department.  I would totally agree that if a tool requires the author to write SQL, or MDX then the tool  is not an end user tool. 

In my view the partnership between the business and IT should manifest itself in a reporting environment such that:

  • IT describe the data available, who accesses it and how.
  • The business is free to concentrate on the presentation of content to support monitoring and analysis. 

Quoting Dale Vile’s research in my last postInformation is a right not a privilege.  Feel free to return fire on this.