Self-service business intelligence

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What is self-service business intelligence?

Self-service business intelligence is a new strategy, pioneered by Domo and other modern BI companies, that aims to make business intelligence more accessible to the average person. By breaking down the barriers that prevent people from using BI tools, self-service BI enables anyone in an organization to drive insights and action using data.

Traditionally, IT-owned BI tools relied on data experts and technical professionals to do most of the work related to data and reporting within an enterprise. Even simple actions, like editing a dashboard or building a visualization, required submitting data access requests and seeking input from other departments. While this approach does have its strengths, it’s slow, creates a bottleneck in the decision-making process, and prevents the average person from interacting with data.



Modern, agile enterprises need a modern BI approach that moves as fast as they do. They can’t spend time waiting on their IT team or data professionals, especially when those professionals have to support the needs of an entire organization. They need teams that can react quickly to trends and act quickly to solve problems. Above all, businesses perform better when every person has access to information. Data can’t be siloed or limited to just a few departments — everyone needs to use it.

This is where self-service BI comes in. Self-service BI software is designed to allow everyone in an organization to interact with data, create visualizations, run reports, and build dashboards, without input from data professionals. Instead of relying on data staff to process all the data for every part of an organization, every team has access to the data they need and knows how to use it to drive towards their specific objectives.

Businesses that prioritize self-service systems can move much faster than those using legacy tools. As more and more employees interact with the data that impacts their day-to-day, the entire company is up-leveled and business decision-making is optimized in real-time.

Self-service BI isn’t intended to replace data experts. Rather, it helps them focus on more critical and complex tasks by cutting out much of their busy work. It’s also not a complete replacement for managed BI tools — there are some tasks that are best left to the professionals. Creating and managing data permission policies within your modern BI solution should still be left to a system admin.

A self-service philosophy is what drives most modern BI tools. it’s not something that can be turned on or off; the best self-service tools were designed with data democratization in mind and built to be accessible and simple to everyone.

What are the benefits of self-service BI?

Businesses can use self-service BI to improve collaboration and communication between departments, drive insight with data at every level, and move quickly and accurately in a business landscape that’s extremely chaotic and competitive.

Self-service BI helps everyone in an organization understand data better, allows for a wider range of viewpoints when analyzing data, and ultimately, unlocks data so that anyone can use it to drive their decision-making.



Here are just a few ways that self-service BI can help a business:

Self-service BI helps businesses stay agile. In legacy BI systems, everything involving data accessibility has to go through IT or other data professionals. There’s no fast and easy way for the average employee can’t get access to data they need on their own. Not only can this lead to overworked IT professionals, it also creates a bottleneck and frustrates employees who are forced to make blind decisions.

All of this means that businesses using legacy BI systems don’t move as quickly as they could be. It can take weeks or even months to get a new dashboard back from IT, at which point the problems that made that dashboard necessary might have already cleared up (or spiraled into disaster).

Self-service BI gets rid of bottlenecks like these, letting employees bypass data experts entirely. Not only can teams implement major BI projects quickly, they also don’t have to pester their data team with every minor change they need to make. Instead of days and weeks of waiting, teams can implement their data projects in hours, with the right training and support.

Self-service BI allows data to drive insight. With a traditional BI system, there’s a layer of abstraction between a team and the data they’re using. When people aren’t interacting personally with data, that data becomes easier to ignore. Teams on the ground often have better ideas than their data experts about what’s really going on.

As teams interact with data more, they’ll become more comfortable using it to drive their decisions. If a team uses their own expertise to analyze data, they’re much more likely to actually use that data. They develop a sense of ownership over their data and their dashboards which helps them to see it as a tool, not as an annoyance or a hindrance to progress.

Self-service BI helps improve collaboration. When everyone in an organization has access to the same data, it’s much easier to stay on the same page. That data becomes a single source of truth that everyone can use as a starting point. Self-service BI also helps teams to access data at different times and in different places, which makes sharing information much easier.

These tools can also foster more valuable communication about data. Since everyone in an organization has some level of data knowledge, conversations about data will get deeper and drive the next phase of business improvement.

It also gets easier to include different points of view when discussing data. Unlike legacy BI systems, where data is analyzed by data specialists, now data can be analyzed by project managers, developers, or anyone working at a business. These people view data as a project manager, or as a developer, and not through the lens of a data specialist. This helps to drive unique insight that data professionals might have missed.

Self-service BI helps data adapt. Using tools like ad-hoc reporting systems and custom dashboards, employees can leverage data in ways that would never be possible using a legacy system. In a legacy system, data implementation usually takes the same few forms, meaning teams have to build their workflows around their data.

With self-service modern BI, teams can build their data around their workflows. Dashboards can be rearranged, customized, or even rebuilt from the ground up, all with the most basic knowledge of the tool. Users can modify existing content, create new dashboards, build new visualizations, or configure new alerts at any time to make their BI experience fit their ever-changing workflow.

In short, self-service BI allows the average employee to interact with data at a level that’s unheard of with other approaches. It democratizes data, helping everyone in an organization to leverage data in their daily workflows. With self-service BI, businesses can truly become data-driven at every level.

What self-service features are important?

BI tools exist along a self-service spectrum – they have varying levels of self-service tools, which makes some of these better options than others. Some features that mark a good self-service tool are:

Ad-hoc reporting. Ad-hoc reporting is the ability for employees to build out new metrics and dashboards to solve business problems, without relying on a data team to do it for them. The ability to build out completely new analysis on existing data, or add new data, all without funneling requests through IT, is a hallmark of self-service BI.

Ad-hoc reporting capabilities can help businesses build reports that would be impossible using other tools. Self-service BI frees up time that data professionals would have to spend on building out these one-off reports. This gives them time to focus on larger projects with higher payoffs.

Dashboard templates. The best BI tools often give employees several dashboard templates that they can start building from, rather than forcing them to start from scratch every time. This massively simplifies the process of making a new dashboard and makes it much easier for employees without much BI experience to interact with data. The best BI tools on the market even have pre-built dashboard applications that allow a user to enter data source credentials and have a fully functional dashboard built in a matter of minutes.

Dashboard templates can help to cut down on mistakes that employees might make when building out dashboards for the first time. With these applications and templates, they can simply plug data in and change the visualizations to their liking, rather than having to worry about all of the small details of the dashboard.

Intuitive UX/UI design. BI tools should be easy to figure out, even without any formal training on the system. Much of legacy BI tools’ inaccessibility comes from their unintuitive UI. When a UI is confusing or tricky to navigate, user adoption decreases which completely defeats the purpose of a self-service BI tool.

It’s essential that BI tools have a user-friendly UI, so that employees can hit the ground running and build reports and dashboards right out of the gate.


Unlocking new data insight with self-service BI

Self-service BI is the next step forward in business intelligence. Businesses can either step forward into the future with a modern BI solution such as Domo, or they can stay stuck in the past with their legacy systems. Data democratization is essential for modern, agile enterprises. As markets shift and competition heats up, businesses that can leverage their data efficiently will have a major advantage.



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