Until recently, business intelligence (BI) systems were complicated affairs; every time you wanted to ask a question about your data, you had to go back to the IT people. You had to wait a long time to get insight from your data (if you ever got it at all).

Self-service business intelligence can change all that, with highly affordable, pay-as-you-go solutions.

Self service analytics let you get key insights, without specialist knowledge and without needing to wait for weeks for answers. Users can get up to speed fast, using intuitive browser-based access from anywhere they have a network connection. Training needs are minimal or zero, and support costs shrink too.

Here are five major benefits of self-service BI.

1. Non-technical users can do their own data analysis

Marketing people can get to grips directly with their customer data to better understand their needs.

Finance finds out at the click of a mouse where the money went last year, how the company is doing this year, and what’s likely to happen in the future.

Manufacturing can make its own dashboard to show production performance in real time, see potential problems before they happen, and seize opportunities to optimize.

With self service BI, individual business users access and analyze data without the help of the IT department. They can visualize the data on their screens for simple, intuitive indications of what it means.

With self service analytics, they can slice and dice as they like, and get actionable insights, simply, rapidly, and effectively.

2. Everybody uses the same version of data

With self-service business intelligence, everyone has access to the same up-to-date version of data. Unlike with spreadsheets, where data often morphs into incompatible versions residing on different machines, self service BI data stays unique and consistent.

Self service systems for business intelligence can also pull together data from otherwise disparate systems, such as accounting, ERP, and HR.

Instead of trying to manually compile and make sense of the rigid predefined reports from each system, self service BI lets you combine the data first, then get the customized reports you need afterwards. You may have enthusiastic discussions about how best to apply the insights, but you’ll never need to argue about how you got them or where they came from.

3. You can stop guessing and start making data-driven decisions

Traditional BI systems often left users no choice but to guess. Queries and requests had to go through the IT department, and by the time a report came back, the data was often out of date, or the report no longer needed.

Self service BI changes this situation radically. Users get access to data without waiting, with analytic available on demand. Users with hunches about trends and correlations can easily test them by asking questions on the fly.

4. Your business can get ahead of the curve

The faster users can access data and apply analytics, the faster your business can move. While rivals are still trying to figure out what to do or waiting for their own reports, your business can already be in action, applying actionable insights.

Market opportunities that remain hidden to others, trapped inside month-long cycles of queries, reports, and more queries, become visible to your users who can ask all the questions they want, and get answers back directly. All your enterprise activities can be accelerated.

Self service BI works for the CEO and the production line operator, for the human resources director and the sales rep, the accountant, and the warehouse clerk; in short, for everyone.

5. Your IT team can breathe again and add value

Spare a thought for your IT department as. Nobody likes the constant pressure of unhappy users, impatient about the time it takes to make BI work or get answers out of it.

To make matters worse, traditional BI systems can be large, clunky and expensive. IT departments must then spend a chunk of their resources maintaining those systems. This eats into the time they have available to help users.

By comparison, self service-BI solutions can free up the IT department, just as much as it liberates non-technical users.

While users race ahead and get the insights and answers they want, the IT team gets the gift of time. Time to look after data governance, ensuring that users are accessing clean, consistent sources of data. Time for software development that is of strategic value to the business, instead of low, added-value maintenance.

And of course, the IT department can use self service BI just like other users, getting their own valuable insights into aspects of IT system usage, forecasting needs, and planning budgets and implementations in good time.

Conclusion

Those who have already tried traditional BI systems will feel the benefit in the rapidity, cost-effectiveness, and flexibility of self-service business intelligence. Those who are trying business intelligence and data analytics for the first time can get a simple, affordable introduction without the need for huge capital outlay or armies of data scientists.

It will allow you to uncover more business opportunities, make better decisions faster, and get ahead of the curve.


About the author

Ilan Hertz is head of lead generation at Sisense, a business intelligence software provider. Ilan uses his domain expertise and data-driven methodologies to lead digital marketing efforts at Sisense.