Regular employees, as opposed to IT professionals, should operate the majority of an organization’s business-intelligence (B.I.) applications. At least, that’s the advice from one Forrester analyst, who recommends that business workers carry out roughly 80 percent of all B.I. requirements, while IT pros handle the other 20 percent. “Forrester by no means advocates that firms transfer complex, mission-critical, enterprise-wide B.I. applications—especially those that carry external exposure or other operational risk—into the hands of non-IT professionals,” Boris Evelson, the analyst in question, wrote in a June 12 corporate blog posting. Nonetheless, he feels that any organization wanting to prevent—or at least reduce—a backlog of B.I. requests needs to place a significant amount of app control in the hands of the average worker. “B.I. requirements change faster than an IT-centric support model can keep up,” he wrote. “Even with by-the-book BI applications, firms still struggle to turn BI applications on a dime to meet frequently changing business requirements.” On top of that, IT schedules and deadlines vary from those of most business workers, creating friction in situations where IT pros must manage and run B.I. applications. Business users “want their BI business requirements addressed according to their, not IT's, schedule,” he wrote, “so that they can continually address their clients' needs and avoid falling behind the competition.” IT pros’ lives are potentially further complicated by B.I. apps not necessarily subscribing to the typical software development cycle; in other words, what Evelson calls the “traditional waterfall methodology”—user requirements transformed into specifications on which the developers base their work—fails to satisfy most B.I. requirements. “The ‘build it, and they will come’ model is directly applicable—and recommended—for BI,” he added, “as only once an end user sees something she can touch and feel and play around with will the real requirements materialize.” According to Forrester, vital self-service B.I. capabilities include automodeling of raw data, search-like GUI (graphical user interface), application sandboxes, write back for “what if” analysis, and exploration and discovery on raw data. But if more workers are expected to operate B.I. apps on their own, software developers may need to pay additional attention to making those apps’ interfaces more intuitive.   Image: zhu difeng/