Excel for Business Intelligence & Analytics

Whenever one talks about the use of Excel in business intelligence (BI) and business analytics (BA), the role of the IT department springs up to the discussion. The fact of the matter is that IT personnel are seen by many BI or BA Specialists as obstacles in adoption of BI systems. From their experience as BI consultants and Excel developers, our very own experts discuss this issue and much more in this topic!

Adoption of Business Intelligence System

As ad hoc tools and spreadsheets are gaining momentum, the role of IT is being pushed more and more into the background. Such a momentum is being falsely perceived as a reduction in the role of IT. These feelings seem to be strengthening as the pace of evolution in the IT sector is decreasing. Under such pressures, IT personnel often create obstructions for BI specialists in order to maintain their influence. These obstructions could take the form of “data hoarding” and unnecessary disagreements.

It is important for IT guys to realize that it is the BI analysts who are connected with the executives. They have the business knowledge to analyze various datasets lying with the IT department. And it is the role of the IT department to empower these analysts through rolling out ad hoc tools for them. BI problems, most of the time, could be too small for IT personnel to cater to: malfunctioning Excel procedures, integration of transactions executed under an exception to a rule etc. Solving these problems requires a strong knowledge of the business, its operating models, its revenue models and its cost centers among other things. All of this falls outside the realm of the IT knowledge.

Trends in Business Intelligence

There are two notable trends concerning the BI market that have been around for quite a while:

  1. Companies having the most progressive IT departments have people with strong finance backgrounds as the heads of Business Intelligence units. This says volumes on what skillset is needed in successfully running BI practice within a company.
  2. Many BI specialists are subscribing to external sources at their personal expense to address their everyday data needs. This is indicative of the rift that has emerged between the IT and BI people. It also signifies how IT personnel have made retrieving data from their repositories extremely grueling.

Role of Excel In Business Intelligence

Within the BI landscape, the role of Excel is very central. This can be seen from the fact that most, if not all, BI tools have a “connect to Excel” button as a primary feature. This is true ever for BI tools which costs millions of dollars. Excel is what has been adopted widely for the analysis of data. And it is important for the IT people to acknowledge this fact.

Recommendations for Excel Developers

One way to enable collaboration between the IT and BI personnel is to have people from business backgrounds get trained in IT. These could be the people who aim to be super-users of technology and would desire to become and IT person.

Another way to settle the dust around data gathering issues is to have dedicated ‘Data Champions’ ensuring the quality of data and keeping track of their flows through various reports. It is important for these data champions not to be performing the role as an IT or a BI person.

Share with us what has been your experience with IT people while solving your BI-related problems

We would love to read about your unique experiences. Please leave your comments below.

Do not forget to share the amazing ideas presented here with your colleagues!

Jamani Arsalan


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