Your IT Administrator doesn’t like it when you “know too much”. Sometimes you figure out “how stuff works” in their network/system and outsmart them. A few times you hack yourself into a mess and Admin spends hours trying to figure out how to get you out of the cobweb. You’re the Abeloth - Bringer of Chaos. In large enterprises there’s usually a handful of you making up a small tribe of IT Arsonists.

When a new product is introduced into the network and promises "ease of use", Admin anticipates breeding from your tribe of smarties. The newbies are an even bigger pain. The force of experimentation is strong with those ones. There’s no telling what deficiency they’ll expose next in the network.

It’s no surprise that Business Intelligence (BI) Consultants and Database Administrators were concerned about the self-service BI capabilities that PowerPivot came with. Launched in Excel 2010, it is the most popular of Microsoft’s BI Reporting tools… and it’s free. PowerPivot makes it easy for any “Power User" to build reports. You can import large amounts of data from multiple sources of different types into Excel and go on a wild reporting spree.

In its early days, there was talk around harrowing repercussions that could come with its "ease of use":

  • Different people reporting different accuracy levels of the same data/metrics
  • Non-standardization and cocktails of non-compliant data
  • Threat to good BI practice
  • Huge files being shared over the network

My list doesn’t do the mass action any justice. Some BI Consultants even went to the extent of predicting job losses. They figured that if everyone was able to create their own reports, the end of their BI glory days was nigh. In half a decade since PowerPivot's introduction, this hasn’t manifested. This "ease of use" instead has increased workload and broadened job roles.

  • To address the bulk of the above listed threats, you require design of data governance protocols and the upholding thereof. You’ve hooked up 2 jobs/roles already.

PowerPivot makes it easy for any “Power User" to build reports. Tweet

  • PowerPivot can be installed in different flavours of BI systems. For example PowerPivot can be used in a SharePoint environment to address issues of accuracy and security in collaboration over time. You still need someone to setup a robust platform (both hardware and software) and, depending on the flavour, maintain the system. That’s 3 consulting jobs (or more depending on the company’s budget) : 1 to implement and maintain the system, and 2 to write daily reports about what Consultant1 is doing wrong.

  • As more people dig up data and find value in reporting it, BI Consultants have been required to introduce and implement advanced modelling and data cleaning.

  • In order to utilize PowerPivot for meaningful analysis, there are some advanced functions that you may need to help the average "Power User" with. You may need someone who masters Data Analysis Expressions (DAX) in order to use inactive relationships and perform complex calculations on your data for example.

Even for a garage startup, it’s not recommended that PowerPivot alone be used as a complete BI system or a replacement of a data warehouse. There was really no need for panic and instead many should have been excited for change. In any case, if the bulk of your job function can be replaced as easily as introducing a new efficiency or enhancement tool without autonomy, then you’re probably slacking!

Cover Image - Paolo Crosetto | Sailing along

This post is sponsored by e-magination InfoSolutions. e-magination InfoSolutions is an information management and consulting firm specialising in Business Intelligence and Information Management.

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