Oct 19 2018

BI Evolution

Categories: General Dave Rathbun @ 11:12 am

As a long-time Business Objects user / consultant / trainer it has been interesting to watch the growth and evolution of BI tools. I work for a fairly large company with a significant investment in Business Object technology. It’s not going anywhere. But a few years back Tableau got a foothold with their “try it free for 30 days” strategy. Tableau became the flavor-of-the-month because people could download it for free, put it on Excel data (which no doubt was provided via a Business Objects extract), and make pretty pictures.

Fast forward to today and we have a Tableau infrastructure with over 100 cores and the number of Tableau users is in five digits. And the new flavor-of-the-month is Microsoft Power BI because, quote, “Tableau is too expensive.” :lol: But ultimately the tool should not matter. A plastic spork gets food into your mouth as effectively as a silver spoon, right? A good (or bad) dashboard design is good (or again bad) no matter which tool is used to deliver it.

I think Tableau today is where Business Objects was years ago. Business Objects was one of the first tools to eliminate the need for business users to learn SQL to work with data. Tableau was one of the first tools to focus on visual exploration of data. Business Objects started out as a “departmental” BI tool. Anyone could set up an environment, build and distribute a universe, and let users start building reports. Tableau has also nailed departmental functionality and is working towards becoming a true enterprise tool. They’re missing some important parts like a true shared semantic layer, enterprise scheduling and distribution, and security. Business Objects has all of these things, plus the capability of exporting to Excel. Remember how long it took for us to get that feature? Anyone want into the pool to see how long it takes Tableau to bow to the same pressure? ;) In my opinion Tableau also needs to get better at working with live data connections instead of requiring extracts for everything.

I actually anticipated this way back when I started this blog, which is why I named it “Dave’s Adventures In Business Intelligence” rather than Business Objects. The goal is to distribute smart, intelligent, useful information. I should not care about the tool.

But tools are important, so next week I will be at the Tableau user conference in New Orleans. It will be weird to go to a conference with so many people (20,000+) and none of them know who I am. 8-)