In recent times, technological developments in the area of Business Intelligence have brought about simpler, faster and more efficient analytics. A BI tool’s ability to compile unstructured data from multiple sources and transform transactional data into management information that deliver clear and accurate insights is indisputable. Business Intelligence, all in all, has been proven to enable better decision-making.
Gartner’s study revealed that 59% of businesses are looking to leverage BI to facilitate analysis and decision-making in 2014. Despite this, some businesses struggle to make real progress with BI and don’t use it beyond tactical purposes, essentially not using BI for the greatest benefit it can offer – making better strategic decisions that can grow the business.
The key to change this is an emerging concept geared towards user empowerment, called self-service BI. The concept signifies a change in the fundamentals of BI – from an area that is mainly managed by IT to one that is predominantly managed by the end-user / Manager. The aim is to help Managers access data and create a set of BI reports, queries and analytics on their own, with minimal IT intervention.
According to The Data Warehousing Institute (TDWI) Best Practices Report, self-service BI delivers on the following four aspects to empower managers.
1. Easy access to source data for reporting and analysis
All too often, we come across errors in reporting due to non-existent data or data that can't be found. Without an understanding of the analytics tool, users tend to refer the issue to IT to address the problem. Not only is this time-consuming to sort out, it usually isn’t effective in giving you the report that you need, when you need it.
To avoid this, BI gives users access to external data, to allow Managers to generate their reports as and when they need it. This may include unstructured data from several sources, such as email or social media. There must be a mechanism in place to source this external data and compile it virtually to allow easy access and thorough analysis. Through effective and efficient report generation, Managers will see greater value of BI.
2. Easy-to-use and improved support for data analysis
One of the key elements of BI that can encourage increased usage by Managers is its interface. It is not uncommon for Managers to lack the technological skills to manage complex tools, making them wary of using the tools and hence, not enjoying the full benefit of the tool.
Therefore it is crucial for BI to have a straightforward layout, an intuitive interface and easy to use functions. Simplicity and ease of use will support unfamiliar users in using the tool, not intimidate them. Complex analytics or intricate reporting should be simplified or equipped with additional support. Simplicity will speed up reporting and analytics, increase efficiency and empower managers to deliver real insight from their data.
3. Fast-to-deploy and easy-to-manage
Speed of reporting and access is also a key concern for BI users. Delays in data procurement or compilation reduce the quality and accuracy of the report, sometimes making it redundant by the time it reaches senior management. Ultimately, the BI in use isn’t effective in delivering accurate insight or improving decision-making.
To ensure reporting effectiveness, a BI tool should be quick and scalable - from simple to complex analytical workloads and high data volumes. It may be deployed in a number of different ways, such as SaaS, cloud offerings or analytics DBMSs. Speed in reporting and analytics increases effectivness and efficiency by encouraging faster decision-making.
4. Easy-to-consume results
The presentation of reports is perhaps the most important component of BI, for users must be able to understand a report to be able to draw insight from it. Without a clear representation of the data set, a Manager may come to the wrong conclusion and/or recommend a course of action that adversely impacts the business.
BI tools are equipped with data visualisation / presentation mechanisms and may integrate with external viewing applications, to let Managers view the report the way they want. They typically come with a customisable dashboard and configurable functionality to ensure users see the information they need in the way they need it. Automation or scheduled reporting is also a common feature. Through this, managers have the capability to clearly process their data and draw accurate insight to make better-informed decisions.
These features enable self-service BI and help managers get more control over their data and achieve more from reporting and analytics. This way, managers are empowered to harness their data further to improve decision-making in a strategic manner.