What is Self-Service Business Intelligence and How to Implement it?

By CIOReview | Tuesday, August 2, 2016
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Since many years, data is hailed as a reservoir of hidden opportunities, as it unravels actionable insights to make educated decisions. This stream of information collected over the years is turning into an ocean of data, causing BI tools to soar their capacity to produce insightful reports with real-time results. However, this assessment requires a lot of effort and time for completion and this makes the work laborious for IT managers. So to ease the efforts and make IT managers stay ahead of user’s demands in creating new reports and applications, Self-service Business Intelligence (SSBI) was introduced. The fundamental principle of SSBI is to allow end users make decisions based on their queries and analyses without depending on the IT department.

Analytics Smackdown: Traditional BI vs. Self-service BI

Gartner, in 2015 Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence and Analytics platforms placed self-service data discovery tools designed for end users in the cutting edge of ‘Leader’ quadrant. Also, Tableau, a data visualization specialist held the foremost position while other traditional BI providers were competing by producing user-friendly tools to minimize IT involvement.

Most users’ find traditional BI system slow and time-consuming, causing the delay in creating reports. Paul Nashawaty, Director, Product Marketing and Strategy, Data Connectivity and Integration Division, Progress explains, “Organizations needs to be more strategic about how they access information in real time—and for this purpose, flexible, simple-to-use self-service tools are best.” Self-service BI tools are user-friendly, interactive, and allow end users to access data sources.

Southard Jones, Vice President, Product Strategy, Birst says, “The growing reality in the business intelligence market today is that it is not a question of either/or. You need to provide governance and self-service.” Data governance being a crucial task, Jones cites that if multiple business users are creating their own reports and dashboards, then there rises a risk in democratizing data which could lead to analytic confusion. As data complexities are more it also involves risks in getting wrong data. Drawing wrong data leads to wrong conclusions. Tapan Patel, Manager, SAS says, “Data governance has often been overlooked during product evaluation and selection phase.”

How to select a SSBI product?

Constellation, a research and advisory firm suggest some four evaluation criteria:

1. Ease of use: User friendly capabilities of SSBI helps to better serve end users. The product selected should be well suited for data-savvy analysts or any business user. It must possess functional parity between the desktop and cloud-based offerings. Ease of use can also be built by providing interactive demos and companion videos, which will function as a guide towards developing various types of analyses.
2. 
Optimize Collaborative functions: Business analytic users get lost inside the labyrinth of complexities involved in leveraging advanced analysis product. So collaboration option—e-mail and shared workflows is used to get together business users and data experts. This assists in social features for rating and promoting reuse of dashboards, analyses and apps.
3. 
Advanced analytics capabilities: Business users are looking for predictive analytics capabilities. They are eager to know how broad and deep are support for advanced analytics in a SSBI approach? Data discovery, data visualization, reporting and advanced dashboard are some of the basic business intelligence capabilities.
4. 
Cost: Pricing scheme ranges according to the offerings provided. Costs also depend upon various service factors—cloud-based, per user, per-month, licensing and advanced analytics features. The Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) depends on how many BI tools are required. A low priced BI tool will only offer service for a basic use case. But when the analytics are complex the TCO increases.

After selecting an SSBI product, it is necessary to successfully implement the product. An adequate implementation will offer an improvised insight to reports by mitigating errors in it.

Implementing Self-service BI

To successfully implement Self-service SSBI, CIOs needs to know their users, which are of two types—power and casual BI users. The former includes tech-savvy individuals who are gravitated towards using the tool to create ad-hoc reports of data. And casual BI users look at the data in different ways but do not have time to learn the tool; they need flexibility in reports like ‘drill down’ and ‘field selection’. These types of users do not make reports. After identifying the number of power and casual users in the enterprise, apply the monitor, analyze and drill framework so that BI users can execute root cause analysis.

In order to empower SSBI to mitigate complexities’, select tools that support self-service BI. Make sure that the tools are easy-to-use without comprising on the functionality. Lastly to sustain self-service BI, create a governance program where a committee will define standards for reports, tools, and interfaces.