The problem: BI Sprawl
Got a minute? Here's a crash course on BI Sprawl:
What is BI Sprawl?
A large majority of companies utilize data analytics tools and run on reports and dashboards in their daily operational activity. BI (business intelligence) and dashboards are visual information tools organizations use to represent data and convey information efficiently. They allow business users to see and launch different analytical projects. Reports are an efficient way of digesting and presenting data analytics’ results for all business users in a company with or without access to the dashboards. In fact, 97% of data leaders use reporting and have multiple business intelligence (BI) and reporting apps.
Businesses heavily rely on reports and dashboards to monitor operations and track objectives, goals, and other business metrics. As commonly stated, you can only manage what you can track and measure. To understand where a company stands at any moment in time regarding performance risks and opportunities, stakeholders and investors need consistently clean and relevant data that can be trusted to be able to make informed decisions.
The fact that modern companies run on reports and dashboards ends up perpetuating the universal problem of BI sprawl. BI Sprawl happens when too many reports are created by too many people using different BI tools in too many different places creating contradictory, uncertain, and inconsistent data analytics. Typically as BI environments expand, teams are at a high risk of making reporting mistakes. As a result, new security risks from data propagation in BI emerge, which add to the costs arising due to a lack of optimization in the overall BI ecosystem.
Some companies, for instance, a major airline in the US, operate in a federated data model allowing anyone to create dashboards; they are seeing over 70 new reports every single day. If anyone is allowed to create unlimited, unverified and unattested reports without proper governance and supervision from a responsible and accountable party, it can create a data and analytics chaos e.g. “the sprawl”. To have vast amounts of data can become as beneficial, as well as problematic if it is messy, duplicated and unstructured. If multiple dashboards represent similar things, so called “dashboard sprawl”, no one of business users can be confident on which dashboard is actually true. This can paralyze business teams in their analytics and decision-making process. It makes it difficult to derive actionable insights, make business and operational decisions in a timely manner, it requires intense labor and time resources while looking for the “right” answer, and decreases the competitive advantage, not to mention profitability.
Types of reports’ issues that lie within the BI sprawl category can be the following:
- duplicated data reports
- bad data reports
- unutilized reports
It can create unnecessary risk and incompliance. Besides creating bad data, it can lead to confusion, frustration, and as a result can produce grave consequences for business.
For business users, this creates confusion - where to find what! Finding reports to make certain strategic decisions or to plan starts with the report itself.
It is highly inefficient; what's worse is that multiple reports can have conflicting data more often than not. So, what to trust? That's when the users ask the data folks to create 'NEW' reports, which perpetuates the problem, as there are multiple reports or versions of the same report within the environment.
At Datalogz, we call this the 'wild wild west of reports.' Even for BI folks, this problem is just as bad - redundant reports and processing are racking up computing and maintenance costs. It's even a massive data security risk.
Report sprawl undermines security, as siloed data analysts create and share reports without governance or coordination, potentially exposing sensitive corporate information.
All in all, business users lose trust in reports, or they abandon use altogether, which turns expensive BI tools into shelfware!
Overall, due to the explosion of data accumulation, unstructured data expansion, and over-utilization of the numerous BI tools that cannot be unified and synchronized, it is often becoming increasingly challenging for corporations to manage their business intelligence environments while ensuring that BI systems run efficiently and effectively.