Self-service business intelligence (BI) is a tool or application that allows end users across an organization to analyze and present data without the help of the IT department. That means teams in operations, marketing, product development, sales, finance, and more can use data every day to help make decisions while easily following data governance processes.
The goal of self-service BI is to give stakeholders across organizations more freedom and to democratize data analysis and reporting. An easy-to-use single source of truth means fewer people are dependent on IT to answer data questions.
Traditional BI vs. self-service BI
A traditional approach to business intelligence relies on IT teams and data analysts to maintain and operate a highly controlled environment. If someone within the organization requests a data report or dashboard, they must wait for the IT team to query the data and deliver the reports. In large organizations or businesses that focus heavily on data insights, this approach can quickly create an IT backlog full of delays, making it difficult for data-driven decisions to be made in a timely manner.
Self-service BI seeks to relieve this backlog by giving teams an intuitive user interface that makes working with data simple, even for those with non-technical data backgrounds. Data can still be kept secure and compliant as IT teams control who has access to specific data sets, but IT doesn’t have to be the only source of data analysis anymore. Self-service BI is a solution that helps stakeholders access and analyze data and then create reports that clearly communicate findings. With this information in hand, every level of an organization can make more informed decisions.
Self-service BI isn’t trying to make everyone a data analyst or trying to take responsibilities away from the IT department. Instead, it’s all about helping teams across the business understand and interact with the data that they generate and collect every day.
Why is self-service BI important?
Self-service makes analyzing and using data simple and accessible for every end user. Many of the data requests teams make in an organization aren’t complicated, but the systems for retrieving the required information are. The answer is to simplify the system. That’s self-service BI. With self-service BI tools, anyone can retrieve data whenever they need it.
Benefits of self-service BI
Quicker answers to questions.
When teams have pressing questions, self-service BI gives them the analytical tools they need to quickly get accurate answers. It’s a more efficient process than bottlenecking information with IT and helps everyone be more productive with streamlined analysis and reporting.
When teams are waiting on data reports, they sometimes have to make time-sensitive decisions without all of the information in front of them. Self-service BI allows decision makers to quickly pull data specific to the questions at hand. With a complete picture of the situation, they can make better decisions to advance their goals.
When teams can more easily access and understand data, they can streamline processes, identify areas of improvement, and even manage inventory more efficiently. All of these elements give an organization a competitive edge.
More effective IT.
When IT teams spend their days filling data requests and creating reports, there is little time for anything else. Self-service BI tools free up IT teams and data analysts to focus on high-level priorities that warrant their technical expertise like data mining or data modeling.
Higher data quality.
A self-service BI tool ensures higher data quality across an organization by lowering the risk of human error in collecting and compiling reports.
Increased data literacy.
Self-service BI makes it possible for more stakeholders to interact with data and see analysis in action. This increases data literacy across your organization, which contributes to a data-driven culture.
How does self-service BI work?
Self-service BI starts with an intuitive interface, often a dashboard. From this dashboard, users can designate what they want to see in a report, both at a high level for the question they want answered and at a more granular level, like the columns they need and calculated fields. Once the information has been gathered, users can choose from a selection of chart types for visualizing results. This allows them to display their key indicators in the way that is most meaningful to their team.
What should I look for in a self-service BI tool?
Like you would when you incorporate any new solution, there are several things to consider as you find the self-service BI tool that’s right for your organization.
Your self-service BI tool should fit within your current data architecture. Tools like Domo work with an organization’s existing cloud data warehouse, ELT tools, and BI tools. It should also allow you to create the types of reports you’ll need to make common decisions. Make sure that your self-service BI tool doesn’t sacrifice data governance for ease of use. It should allow administrators to make sure the right data is in the right hands.
Look for tools that can be deployed easily, and determine how much training employees will need to use the self-service BI interface. The quicker your team can get up and running, the better.
How do different industries use self-service BI?
Every industry can benefit from self-service BI. These tools are especially helpful in industries that depend heavily on data analytics like finance, marketing, and real estate. By training employees to use a self-service BI solution, IT teams can relieve bottlenecks and help organizations get reliable information faster than ever before.
Education is another excellent example of the power of BI. Think of all the data that a public school district collects each school year. Administrators and teachers need to compile this data into reports for state and federal funding, grants, size classification, and student support. If the district IT team was the only source for those reports, they would do little else with their workday.
With a self-service BI tool, administrators and teachers can request and create reports on their own any time they need them, leaving the IT team to focus on data governance and data security.
How will self-service BI evolve in the future?
Self-service BI tools will continue to innovate and simplify how the average employee interacts with data. Interfaces will become more user-friendly and lean on visual and drag and drop features.
All of these advancements will continue to fuel the trend toward data democratization, allowing non-specialists to gather and analyze data without needing help from data experts. As the average user interacts with data more frequently, the overall data literacy in organizations will increase.
Security and data governance will also take center stage as IT teams balance the need for data democratization and data control. Solutions like Domo’s new default view for dashboards mean that IT teams can designate exactly what certain users or certain departments see when they log into the self-service BI tool. This way no one is overwhelmed by seeing data that isn’t relevant to their job, and data that needs to remain secure isn’t put at risk.
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