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Is Self-Service BI a Key Feature of Business Intelligence?

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As this article discusses, Is self-service business intelligence the answer? is self-service BI a key feature of business intelligence?

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  • During the past two decades, we've watched BI emerge as one of the key drivers of productivity for knowledge workers. Unfortunately, the cost and complexity of traditional tools has yielded about 20% BI software penetration, according to leading market research firms. So, how can BI reach a bigger percentage of those who need the analytic insight to make better business decisions? Answer: Self-Service BI is surely one of the key ingredients to broader use.

    New, lighter-weight, modern, web-based BI tools are now available to make the ideal of self-service BI both affordable and implementable. Super-users using rich semantic layers (meta data) can build simple but powerful sandboxes so the average business user can construct or modify his own reports and dashboards. Graphical, drag-and-drop ad hoc report builders (which mask the required SQL) enable these same business users to explore and originate new analytic views of data. And, all of this can be done very inexpensively, thanks to these modern tools.

    We'll continue to see business intelligence technology reach more end users because of superior self-service technologies. And these technologies will be part of the reason more business users will use business intelligence to make better, fact-based decisions than ever before.

    Brian Gentile
    Chief Executive Officer

  • I definitely believe so. There are two complementary forces going for it. Business users expect to be able to do more on their own in today's Web 2.0 technology world and are tired of the frustrating, slow database analyst methods of getting customized information out of old BI.

    And IT is all for increasing efficiency and getting out of the way of needless requests that could be fulfilled with self-service BI.

    What self-service BI means can range from easy point-and-click interactivity with a dashboard or visual analysis that someone in IT built for business users -- to the powerful data mashup and drag and drop design tools that either business-type power users or data analysts can use.

  • I thought we had moved on from this question a decade ago.
    The question for me is why is this still a topic for discussion.

    BI self-service is a given!

  • It is indeed. However, it depends on the organization's BI maturity how they use self-service BI.

    I have seen two extremes - organizations where users are so sophisticated, they know how to use self-service BI effectively. These organizations have great
    IT and Business teams and they work extremely well together. This leads to highly successful implementations of self-service BI complementing
    the centralized BI.
    The other extreme is where users are not trained well and are less sophisticated to use self service BI. This leads to frustrations not only in the business community but also within IT as they are responsible for the final outcome!
    IT is also burdened with maintaining the report clutter resulting from sub-optimal self-service BI usage and managing the user expectations. This usually turns out to be a lose-lose situation.

    There is no dearth of sophisticated tools today. There are many great looking dashboard tools and vendors claim they are literally plug-and-play and can
    be managed by non-IT teams. Yes, to a large extent. However, there is no shortcut to a well defined and scalable strategy for enterprise BI and
    many organizations realize the plug-and-play dream soon leads to plug-and-pray situations, hoping the reports are reflecting the single version of
    the enterprise truth (in terms of data).

    So, the onus is on the leadership team to find the optimum balance between a full self-service BI environment vs a more controlled environment. Technology
    is just an enabler, and there are great tools out there. Using it effectively still is the responsibility of human beings.

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