The compelling argument for self-service analytics

  • Richard Thelwell
  • November 18, 2014

self-service analyticsThere’s no denying that self-service analytics is hot. Why? Because ordinary old-fashioned traditional analytics itself is hot. Right across the world of business, it’s shining a very profitable spotlight into areas as diverse as customer behaviour, inventory management, and manufacturing performance.

But don’t let anyone kid you that traditional analytics is easy—or inexpensive. And it’s that very difficulty with traditional analytics which is behind the strong growth in self-service analytics.

Because traditional old-fashioned analytics is time-consuming, can be error-prone and resource-intensive, and needs people with data skills to carry it out. In short, it’s a fairly significant investment in cash, resources and effort.

Unlike self-service analytics—which isn’t time-consuming and resource-intensive, isn’t error-prone, and most certainly doesn’t need data scientists to carry it out.

Let’s take a look at why.

Self-service analytics: data warehouse included.

Let’s start with one of traditional analytics’ biggest bugbears: where to get hold of clean, correct, ready-to-crunch data.

From your ERP system, maybe? Think again. Raw ERP databases—from whichever ERP vendor—employ a technology called ‘normalisation’, which spreads data across multiple tables.

Doing that helps to minimise redundancy, and makes the database more efficient at storage. But it makes writing a query or report much more difficult, much slower to run, and much more prone to error. Worse, it slows down your ERP system—sometimes to a crawl.

Which is why businesses wanting to perform analytics—either self-service analytics or traditional analytics—are usually well advised to take a long hard look at data warehouses.

What’s a data warehouse? A database built for reporting and analytics, in short, rather than a database built for storage.

Self-service analytics: leveraging the Cloud.

Now, you’ve almost certainly got your ERP system in-house, or “on-premise” in the jargon. So you’d naturally think to put your shiny new data warehouse there as well, right?

Well, you could. And certainly, that’s what many businesses employing old-fashioned traditional analytics do. But don’t follow them.

Because that—again—turns out to be one of the reasons why old-fashioned traditional analytics tends to be time-consuming and resource-intensive.

There’s a need to purchase specialist data warehouse software, for instance. There’s also hardware to purchase, maintain, and upgrade. And there’s a need for people to write and maintain data extraction and transformation rules, in order to turn data that has been optimised for storage into data that is optimised for reporting and analytics.

All before you’ve run a single query, written a single report, or conducted a single piece of insightful analysis.

Self-service analytics: inexpensive Software as a Service.

So what’s the alternative? Self-service analytics, in short—sourced from a Cloud-based Business Intelligence provider. Why?

First, because the Cloud-based Business Intelligence provider will build the data warehouse—a task they’re very familiar with, having performed it many times before.

Second, because the Cloud-based Business Intelligence provider will host that data warehouse in the Cloud, thereby sharply cutting the financial and resource cost of procuring and operating the data warehouse, were you to host it on-premise.

And third, because the Cloud-based Business Intelligence provider will do this in exchange for a fixed-fee upfront setup cost, and a monthly subscription thereafter. Which means that your upfront investment is limited to simply that fixed-fee setup cost.

Self-service analytics: click-and-crunch.

After which, you’ve pretty much got everything that you need for self-service analytics.

Because—barring some very simple user training—self-service analytics need involve nothing more complicated than accessing your familiar Internet browser, and clicking and selecting the data that you want, held within your own Cloud-based data warehouse.

And because that data warehouse is in the Cloud, the resulting analysis also takes place in the Cloud, using powerful Cloud-based servers, and in-memory computing.

Meaning that the operation of your ERP system is unaffected—no matter how many queries or reports are being run.

So is it any wonder that self-service analytics is outpacing traditional old-fashioned analytics? Here at Matillion, we don’t think so.

Want to learn more about how Self-Service analytics can improve your business performance? Download our free E-Book below.