Saturday, May 10, 2014

What happened to the Librarians?

In my earlier post (click here) on a hypothetical internet with no search engine, we talked about a world if there had been no Google and the innovations that we would have lost. A question was posed - What happened to the Librarians? Did Google make the Librarians jobless?

The librarians had a tough job. They knew that there was no way there were going to be able to keep up with the number of requests coming in. They also knew that the more questions they answered the more questions were going to come up. In addition, for them to do a good job, the users had to provide enough detail and context about the questions. Without the detail and context, it was easy to misinterpret the questions. It did not matter how hard they worked or how good they were, they could never make their users happy. In fact, if they were really good, it just meant that the number of questions went up and their response times went up. It was a vicious cycle that could not lead to success.

In the above hypothetical context, the librarians were happy when Google came along. The users could now ask their own questions. There was a job that still needed highly skilled resources - SEO specialists. They could now make sure that the content was presented in a way that would show up on Google. This job was much more enjoyable and challenging and higher paying. It was also something the Librarians were good at (it dealt with indexing and organizing content).

Similarly, in today's organizations. The teams that are responsible for building the reports aren't really that excited about creating charts and graphs and making the reports just right (getting every pixel perfect). It is a thankless job as you can never design the perfect report. Each user is different and based on their context / perspective, they want to see the data just that little differently. Given a choice, they would much rather focus on the job of making the organization's data available and accessible. This is a much more challenging and rewarding job. It is also something they have the skills for. Lastly, this now changes the dynamic between the two groups. It is a much more symbiotic relationship with both sides adding value.

So, Self Service Business Intelligence, does not do away with IT, instead it allows highly skilled IT resources to focus on the harder problem of making the data available, accessible, secure and governed while the end users can ask all the questions they want. If there is a question that is not answered by the data, they can now go back to IT and IT can work on making the new data set accessible. This is a much more agile process that allows organizations to react to the fast changes going on around them.

In this new world everyone wins. The organizations now have users that are curious, ask questions of their data and find insights that drive innovations. Highly skilled IT resources focus on the data and making it accessible. The organizations benefit because you now have users and IT aligned, each respecting each other and driving value. You have meetings where IT and business work together and the IT team gets a standing ovation from the users for the value they deliver. If you think that last part is hypothetical, you are quite mistaken. This is a reality at a lot of Tableau customers... Check out this post (click here)

Friday, May 9, 2014

Imagine the internet without Google..

The year is 1998. Content is exploding on the internet. Websites are popping up all over the place. But there is one little wrinkle - there is no Google, no search engines to search the information on the internet. The only way users can get their questions answered is to go to their local library. The Librarian requires you to fill out a form with all the details on the topic you want to learn about and ask questions. You have to make sure you think through all your questions beforehand. You submit your request and a week later you have your answers. You realize that some questions were misinterpreted, some answers led you to ask more questions, so you sit down to fill out the form again and wait another week. As more people have questions, the Librarians are overworked and now it takes a month to get your questions answered. You make sure you only ask the most important questions.

In case you think this is a hypothetical scenario. Just look at the organizations you work in. The year is 2014. Data is exploding. Every system, person, machine is generating data. There is one little wrinkle. The only way users can get their questions answered is to go to their Report Factory. The team running the Report Factory, requires you to provide all your questions upfront. They need this to be able to get you the answers as they don't know the context to your questions. It takes them a couple weeks to return with your answers (as they are busy with the many requests coming in). They use a language called SQL and work with cubes/universes. It is very complicated. When you look at the reports created for you, you realize that some questions were misinterpreted (as the report creator did not completely understand the context to your question), some reports led you to ask more questions. You start this process again and get ready to wait another couple weeks. As data grows, more people have questions and the 2 weeks now takes 2 months. It is easier to make decisions on gut feel than wait for the data.

If there had been no Google, no Search Engine - we would not have had any blogs (why create something when it is so difficult for people to find it), we would stop being curious (no more being the smart guy in the party who has the answer to the most obscure question), there would not have been a Facebook or a Twitter or a Flicker or YouTube (why create something when no one can find it), there would not have been the need for an iPhone or an iPad (why have a device when you can't find any relevant content)..

Imagine what your Organization is losing out by not having Self Service Business Intelligence. By not allowing your end users, the people who care about the data, an easy way to access and understand data in your enterprise - you are stifling their curiosity, you are losing competitive insight, you are preventing the next innovation from taking off in your organization, you are losing your change agents, you are being left behind.

So if you ask me.. is there a Google for the data in your enterprise.. my answer is YES.. and it is Tableau.. Come see how we are changing the lives of our customers and why they are passionate about a piece of software that has given them a purpose, a voice and a means to change their lives.

In case you are wondering what happened to the Librarians. Check out my follow on post (click here).