Swinging for the Fences with Data Prep

According to the recently published End User Data Preparation Market Study released by Dresner, “end-user data preparation ranks 11th among 25 technologies and initiatives strategic to business intelligence, behind foundational initiatives but well ahead of many “hot” topics such as big data and cloud computing.”

This finding seems about right to me, and while many business analysts experience some sort of challenge with their data prep efforts, some also struggle to figure out what to do about it. It’s still relatively early days for self-service business intelligence in the market, so the level of awareness hasn’t really seemed to permeate the entire population of business analysts. If it were a baseball team, I’d place it in the bottom of the second, but as companies begin to catch wind of the benefits and ROI these solutions can provide as the number of success stories increase, data prep could very well become the MVP that helps companies knock their bottom line out of the park.

While big data has caused quite a stir in the IT world, the problem remains that it hasn’t worked for 30 years. No one has been able to solve the business analyst’s problem by putting data in to one place. Why? Because putting everything in one spot is an IT-centric approach – one that doesn’t take into consideration the needs of the business person, who only needs a piece of the data, quickly and completely. This audience doesn’t typically consume the rhetoric of the press but rather investigates alternatives on their own – if they have the time – or gets their information via word-of-mouth from someone who’s been there, done that, and identified a way to make things better.

So here’s a word of caution to all the solution-seekers out there: It’s easy for some vendors to call their solution a data prep tool by offering the basic Excel functions, but unless they enable the process to be both repeatable and governed, they’re not really helping you solve your problem. While we know that governance, compliance and traceability are critical components to solving this challenge, many data prep vendors don’t address this need, which only exacerbates the problem that IT says is already out there with regards to rouge data sets and differing individual data models that are not being shared or validated.

In the data prep market, it is imperative for solutions to have the ability to catalog data as well as find, share, distribute and socially interact with others through data sets. Anything less is not a sustainable solution. Folks who keep their data sets to themselves actually fuel the problems that plague IT. Solutions that allow users to distribute the data set within the rules of security will help the organization immensely as they can then be reused many times, instead of everyone doing their own thing with no one knowing what anyone else is working on. Building iterations of an initial data model from person to person makes that data more valuable and the process more efficient, which will enable your company to swing for the fences and not strike out at the plate.


Want to learn more about how data prep is becoming an important step towards the ongoing trend of user empowerment and self-service business intelligence? Download the 2nd Annual Wisdom of Crowds on End User Data Preparation Market Study by Dresner.