With traditional BI, information consumers ask a question, which is answered through a report. Those reports are then given to the information consumer, which typically generates more questions, which leads to more reports, and so on and so forth. Data discovery, on the other hand, allows those information consumers to make meaningful use of data. A question is asked, the user then generates a visual representation of the results. From there, questions can be refined quickly and efficiently.
The first and most significant sign that your help desk management data discovery needs to be changed is easy to spot. If you must rely on developers or other members of the IT team to provide you with the information you require then it’s time to make a change.
Legacy BI tools require a significant amount of lead time. You’re probably scheduled for a regular set of weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual reports for your help desk. But every help desk manager knows that ad-hoc reporting can’t be avoided. Sometimes you just need to know information or get answers to a question. When you rely on developers to get those reports, you’re beholden to their workload and availability, and there is no such thing as immediate turnaround.
New data discovery tools remove developers from the equation and give you the power to generate your own queries whenever you need to. At your fingertips, you will receive an instant visualization of your data, allowing you to make critical decisions about your service desk in real time, rather than waiting days, weeks, or longer to get the information you require.
Waiting for a report from the IT team may actually be manageable, especially if you’ve been doing it for a long time, but it does have a ripple effect on your ability to take meaningful action to benefit the operation of your help desk. When you must wait days or weeks to get a report from the IT team, you’re probably hesitant to go back and ask them for a new one if you find you need to make adjustments. This leads to a tendency to instead tweak the report (typically in Excel), and refine the existing data to create an answer from the information in front of you, even if you don’t have the full picture.
If you find yourself engaging in this practice, it’s probably time to look into a new data discovery process. The goal of data discovery is to give users the power to move faster. Questions can be answered in real time, and you, as the consumer of that information, can adjust your approach instantly, in favor of a new question that will drill down the proper results. If you find you’re headed down the wrong path, you can simply scrap the report and start over, without any lead time or assistance from developers. The process can be repeated indefinitely, without holding up operations.
Excel is an extremely powerful tool and it should be part of your overall BI toolbox. If you ask Microsoft representatives, they’ll tell you that Excel can be a data discovery tool. In the hands of an advanced power user, it actually can be. However, most end-users are not advanced power users of Excel. When it comes to help desk management, data discovery shouldn’t be a hassle. If you have to spend a great deal of time exporting data, developing formulas, adjusting rows and columns, and formatting a spreadsheet, those are hours you aren’t spending on mission-critical tasks.
When it comes to Excel, the door is wide open for errors. A single error on one spreadsheet can have far-reaching implications, not just for the help desk, but for the entire organization. Typically, spreadsheets get passed around among several users, and those users tweak the spreadsheet.
Just one unintentional error can lead to a rash of poor decisions.