How To Avoid The Biggest Self-Service BI Pitfalls

  • Ed Thompson, CTO
  • February 17, 2014

self service bi pitfalls how to avoidHere at Matillion we think Self-Service BI is the bees-knees. It’s the type of thing that can truly have a big impact upon your company. But that doesn’t mean it’s problem-free. So we have compiled a list of the biggest problems with Self-Service BI along with the solutions to these problems.

It’s not all down to the reporting tool

Data is held in systems such as ERPs, CRMs, supply chain data and ledgers. Beyond the surface of these systems are hundreds of complex database tables, all with confusing and scary sounding names. In order to get the relevant information out of these databases, the user must know which tables to join together and which ones they need.

This leads to one of the biggest problems with Self-Service BI – it is not simply about installing a reporting tool and clicking “go”, the user must have a significant level of technical skill and sufficient knowledge of the system to create reports successfully.

No matter how powerful the reporting tool, the business user will struggle to self-serve if they simply “point it” at complex data without the relevant experience, skills and knowledge.

Not everyone is one the same wavelength

A further problem of Self-Service BI is that all users, departments and levels of hierarchy are not always on the same wavelength. Different users may have different definitions of certain business terms.

Take “gross margin”, for example. Which costs are included? Which costs are excluded? Is the gross margin expressed in a constant currency or the currency of the transaction? Are customer-side or supplier-side rebates included?

If different users interpret business terms differently, incorrect figures could be used when creating reports. This will cause multiple problems, resulting in lost time and money.

Be careful what the user can access

Allowing all users to access all the information within a business could be potentially disastrous. The challenge is having the right security to stop users helping themselves to information that you don’t want them to see.

If it were available to them, would an outgoing employee help him or herself to important client information? Would employees take a peek at HR reports to view salary information?

Whilst most people would not, security is still needed to prevent this.

Mistakes can be made purely by accident as well. Without the correct security and restrictions, for example, a report containing details of costs and margins could be sent to a customer, a development which could potentially spell disaster.

Avoid the pitfalls with Matillion

Each of these three big Self-Service BI problems can be avoided with Matillion.

We use a data warehouse and meta-data layer to ensure the user is presented, not with a list of complex tables and field names, but with a glossary of business terms, personalised to their own organisation, from which they can build their report.

In Matillion’s ETL layer, business rules can automate the production of calculated measures and fields (such as gross margin), saving time in the finance department and even more importantly ensuring everybody arrives at the correct answer (without having to work it out themselves).

Finally encryption, permissions and row/column security ensure that users only see the data they are meant to and cannot accidentally stumble across information which is not intended for their eyes.

Find out more about Self Service BI and register for our free webinar below.