Power To The People: Self-Service BI And The Democratisation Of Analytics

  • Richard Thelwell
  • July 8, 2014

In the past, Business Intelligence and analytics tools have required a high level of technical expertise – and as a result their use has often been confined to IT departments. This no longer has to be the case, with Self-Service BI democratising these tools, allowing their benefits to be exploited across the whole business.

Traditional Business Intelligence solutions are often complex and therefore difficult to use. In this article, we look at how Self-Service BI aims to make it easier for users to create their own reports, overcoming many of the problems companies have faced with traditional Business Intelligence.

Overcoming bottlenecks

With traditional Business Intelligence solutions, only a handful of staff have the necessary skills required to operate these systems and as a result bottlenecks often form around these key individuals. These staff can become inundated with requests to build reports – and this may lead to significant backlogs forming, meaning that by the time these reports are actually produced, they are often no longer relevant.

Self-Service BI allows users, no matter what their level of experience, to go into the software quickly and extract information from which they can create meaningful reports and communicate these across the business. This alleviates the pressure put on IT staff, reducing bottlenecks and speeding up the reporting process.

Increased accessibility

One of the major factors driving the increased usage of Business Intelligence tools is greater accessibility. Over recent years, there has been a huge surge in demand for these tools to be accessible across a number of different devices for users who are on the go. This means that with Self-Service BI, these tools are no longer restricted to staff who are based on site. Users can now access these tools wherever and whenever they like on devices such as smartphones and tablets.

Improving the decision making process

By allowing business users greater access, Self-Service BI tools can speed up the decision making process and allow companies to react more quickly to changes in performance.
As Dave Henry states, “Today’s organizations need to respond much more quickly to market conditions. That means putting more information in the hands of more people in an organization. It’s not just an issue of getting information to a few data analysts who are going to interact with the data warehouse.”

Improving the decision making process within an organisation can also help to eliminate what Frank Smietana describes as “corporate decision fatigue”. He argues that the more decisions managers face, and the more complex these decisions become, the more likely they are to make the wrong decisions. Over time, this decision fatigue may lead to companies missing out on important opportunities because of failures in the decision making process.

Self-Service BI can help to ease the strain on these managers by allowing business users to make many of these decisions themselves with the aid of better quality insights. Sharing this workload more evenly across the business could alleviate corporate decision fatigue and allow better decisions to be made.

Benefits for IT departments

As well as the obvious benefits for business users, Self-Service BI also brings benefits for IT departments, as a great deal of strain is taken away from IT resources. With users free to analyse data and create their own reports, IT staff can now take more of a back seat approach in the reporting process.

Rather than spending most of their time creating management reports, IT departments can be more proactive in improving the IT operations of the business. In many companies, there is a degree of tension between business and IT staff, and this often leads to disputes over the best course of action. Removing the dependency between business and IT staff may improve this relationship and have a positive effect on internal relations.

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