Posted on: August 11, 2015

The term “business intelligence” (often shortened to “BI”) is the latest buzzword in the business lexicon, but do you actually know what it means? Sure, you know that BI has something to do with data warehouses, but what about beyond that? In addition to including decisions about data warehouses, business intelligence is deeply involved with processes including reporting, data mining, extraction, transformation, loading, and forecasting. Having the ability to obtain this type of data can prove to be invaluable when you consider all that can be learned about your organization and your customers. 

If it sounds complicated, that’s because it is. Highly skilled technologists are required in order to manage the broad spectrum of technologies that are encompassed within business intelligence, but don’t let that stop you from thinking that you can access these data stores. In fact, through self-service BI, users like yourself can access, understand, and make decisions based upon your own analysis as opposed to having access only to the data available via a larger BI system.

Here’s a closer look at what self-service BI is and how it works:

Self-Service BI at a Glance

We all understand the concept of “self-service”, but what does that have to do with business intelligence? Your initial thought may be that your business’ staffers might not be well-equipped enough to handle data analytics from a “self-service” approach, but you’d be amazed at what can be done. Self-service business intelligence (SSBI) empowers users by allowing them to create personalized reports and analytical queries – all without the involvement of the IT department (at least beyond the initial setup). Armed with this type of information, users can make well-informed decisions that are based on data rather than intuition, thus yielding more positive business results. 

Implementing Self-Service BI

One key thing to remember is that SSBI is not a complete BI solution. In order for it to work, you first need to invest the time and effort into developing data warehouses, data parts, ETL processes, cubes, dimensions, and all other necessary components of a comprehensive BI solution. If you’ve already got all of this in place and are simply planning to add self-service capabilities, you’re already one step ahead of the game. Otherwise, you need to make sure that you really have all of the resources necessary for such a large and complex system. This is a must, as lack of time and capital resources are the main killers of any BI project. 

From here, you need to determine who will need access to your BI system on a self-service basis. Remember that your data warehouse contains sensitive information and that providing too many people with carte blanche access can lead to a system overload. This can result in a bogged down system, chaotic reporting, conflicting information, and serious performance issues. Establishing boundaries pertaining to which individuals and departments can make use of SSBI is critical from the get-go.

Getting the Most Out of BI

The fact that SSBI enables users to do their own analysis while freeing up valuable time from IT professionals is extremely attractive, but these benefits can only be enjoyed when the SSBI capabilities are built with a business focus from the very beginning. To avoid any confusion or chaotic reporting within your operation, IT should work with various departments to come up with key metrics, universal vocabulary, agreed-upon reporting and publishing processes, privilege/clearance levels, and security policies. All employees and departments should receive training on SSBI to avoid confusion and to ensure that everyone is working on the same page. The goal, after all, is to make your business more — not less — efficient.

Another key to success when it comes to BI is working with a reputable technology company that can help you every step of the way. If you need any assistance, get in touch with the professionals at Uncommon Solutions to help you integrate BI into your business strategy.