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)

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