“Open Access” vs “Self-Service” Data

Self-Service BI

What is “Open Access to Data”?

Open access does NOT mean that everyone has access to everything, or that necessarily any one person has access to everything (from a business user perspective). Here’s a definition that will make some of you squirm.

Open access: All users in an organization are granted access to all data in the organization through a defined, intentional, repeatable process, in accordance to their individual role and prioritized need for that data.

So, it’s not giving everyone access to everything, it’s giving everyone access to the RIGHT things to improve their job over time. And remember that this is more evolutionary than revolutionary in healthy organizations. Those who target a big bang frequently end up with a bum fizzle. The early-and-continual delivery of value is far preferable, in both the short and long terms.

What is “Self-Service Data”?

Industry pundits hopped up on the buzz of business intelligence throw around the term self-service with impunity, hoping that BI will deliver to them some magic universe in which every conceivable reporting or analytic requirement can be accounted for by a “self-service portal” front end to the wonder of the data warehouse. The truth is that no such indefinite and infinite vision to the horizon is possible. Even in the most ideal world, you will never experience a 100% self-service environment.

Here’s what BI can do for you in this realm …

There are too many people in your organization devoting too many hours to manually massaging and manipulating data in response to totally unpredictable (seemingly random) requests for aggregated, cross-referenced, or other newly-contextualized data sets. BI does promise that over time, these manual efforts will be replaced with a uniform data model, capable of fielding ever-broadening, increasingly complex requests for knowledge from the data. This will free up your data/statistical research experts to be more strategic and attend to a higher-order of complexity, but the demand for them will not go away. Success means making these resources more strategic over time, not eliminating them.

What BI will not do for you …

Alchemy, card tricks, cold fusion, or other magic reliant on some illusive silver bullet. BI is more about discipline and intentionality than any form of magic. No overnight miraculous change of any kind will occur.


Don’t deal in all-or-nothing scenarios!¬†Companies expecting it to take 3 months (or even 3 years) to go from 100% manual ad-hoc request management to 100% total automation of all reporting are going to learn to live with disappointment … the hard way. Ask yourself, “What would you give to gain 20% automation per year at the cost of creating 10% new demand for higher-order higher-complexity higher-value ad-hoc requests (which drive more manual request management and therefore drive new requirements of the BI environment)?”

This is a far more realistic scenario. The phrase that pays is, “Progress, not perfection”.

About Jeff Block

Lover and follower of Jesus, the long awaited King. Husband and father. Writer and seminary student. On a long, difficult, joyful adventure, learning to swim with the current of God's sovereign love and walk with Him in the garden in the cool of the day.
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1 Response to “Open Access” vs “Self-Service” Data

  1. I was suggested this blog by my cousin. I’m not sure whether this post is written by him as nobody else know such detailed about my difficulty. You’re incredible!


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