The on-going (and in my view mistaken) obsession with “self-service" seems to lead many people to conclude that “Google is the Nirvana of end-user BI”. By which I think they mean that being able to type any question into a simple text box and get an answer is the best possible interface for asking a business question.
I disagree … both in terms of how you ask the question and in terms of the answer that you get!
Is this really the future of BI?
If I want sales information, I don’t want to have to type “what were total sales in Europe last quarter” and get a single number back only to have to then type “what were total costs in Europe last quarter” and either do a quick calculation to get profit or type yet another question. Little better would be the ability to say “show me sales in Europe last quarter broken down by country and quarters for the widget division” because now I am getting a little more structure but at the cost of having to type long and involved questions (which will doubtless be misinterpreted by the system).
And, on the answer side, I definitely don’t want a long list of links giving me alternative answers.
So, I have to ask, what it is that people think they are asking for when they say “Google is the Nirvana for BI”
A better vision of the future of BI
Fortunately, Google themselves have the right answer for us. It is a DASHBOARD. Here’s why …
I have been saying for a while (Four dashboard design lessons from the BBC Weather site) that the BBC weather site is one of the best examples of an interactive, predictive, “big” data dashboard you are likely to find. So it made me smile (to say the least) when I typed “weather” into Google the other day and the first thing I got back was … a DASHBOARD.
Watch the 62 second video below to find out what happens … and, as you will see, most of the page was filled not with a list of links but with a rather nice interactive, drillable dashboard.
So, while some people think that the future of BI is Google, I would strongly argue that this shows that Google themselves think that the future of end-user BI future is dashboards. And, I’m firmly with Google on this one.
More thoughts :-
For more on self-service (which this post started) check out my earlier post entitled Most users need BI Apps not "self-service" (here I use the terms “BI App” and “interactive dashboard” to mean the same thing, which one do you prefer ?).
If you want to find out more about what type of interactivity is required to make dashboards successful download the eBook “The Hierarchy of Interactive Dashboard Needs”