Howard Dresner surveys parallel reporting. Should we fight parallel reporting? Can parallel reporting handle versions of truth, based on common facts?

In his annual Business Intelligence survey (*), BI researcher Howard Dresner has been focussing some time on the usage of Business Intelligence systems. In particular on fuctions and tools which are being used and requested by end users. According to some of his ongoing research, just over 20% of its respondents say that they are performing all of their Analysis in a single environment.

Over 60% are claiming to be using 2, 3 or 4 different environments.

I believe this to be an underesimate: if we count excel, .pdf and portal based reporting as seperate export mediums, is it likely that 20% will be using just one reporting system?

So what about maintaining a single, consistent version of corporate truth?

This is an interesting perspective. Either we combat the use of parallel reporting, or we make peace there with.
Each of the component reporting systems we use, obviously has a maintenance overhead and risk:

  • How does a component relate to its data sources?
  • Who is receiving this?
  • Is there replication of intelligence?
  • How can we avoid contradictions?
  • Does a compinent in a parallel reporting system bring value to our Business Intelligence ecosystem?
  • How will maintaining multiple systems impact our future time-to-market?

We may believe it would be better if we all shared a same vision on the world, enforcing some single version of the truth.

However, I have yet to encounter an organisation which derivers all facts from a single data source, or indeed consistently uses a unified reporting systems across the board. Each data source adds to the variety of facts, each reporting system adds to the interpretation of truth.

Single version of the facts, not truth

I would feel a lot better if all reporting could somehow depend on a common version of fact.

I would not mind running parallel systems, if they allowed me to spread these facts faster & further.
And even less so if parallel reporting allowed us to reach more people.

In fact, truth is always a matter of perception, and perception,
just like contact-lenses and indeed Reporting tools,

... lies in the eye of the beholder.


(*) His 2015 survey is still running, we encourage you to participate, this will take up to 20 minutes, but feel free to skip unfamiliar topics.