How IT can empower the enterprise with self-service analytics at scale

Business intelligence used to be a top-down affair which IT often approached in the same manner as traditional IT projects. The business makes a request of IT, IT logs a ticket, then fulfills the request following a waterfall methodology.

While this approach centralized data and promoted consistency, it sacrificed business agility. There was a significant lag between question and answer. And this delay led to lackluster adoption and low overall business impact.

Fast-forward to today and IT finds itself at a crossroad with self-service BI as the new normal that can no longer be ignored. The business demands the agility that comes with self-service to drive and improve business outcomes through data-driven decision-making.

This presents IT with an important choice. Either embrace the demand for self-service BI and enable the broader use and impact of analytics, or ignore the trend and continue producing lower-value enterprise reporting stifled by the limitations of traditional tools. IT professionals who are ready to serve as the catalyst will deliver far greater value than those who choose to ignore the real needs of their business users and analysts.

As organizations begin the transition from a traditional approach driven by IT to a self-service approach enabled by IT and led by the business, a new framework is required. This means that past decisions supporting the core foundational components of a BI program—people, process, and platform—must be revisited.

Prioritize people and their needs
A successful transition to self-service analytics begins with people. In a traditional BI model, people were often considered last after platform and process. IT often took the “if you build it, they will come” approach.

But even after they built it, most people did not come. That’s because there was little to no collaboration between the business users and IT during the process of building the solution after an upfront requirements-gathering phase.

Collaboration between the business and IT is critical to the success of the implementation. IT knows how to manage data and the business knows how to use the insights to drive business decisions. Early collaboration will not only lead to the deployment of a platform that meets the needs of the business but also drives adoption and impact of the platform overall.

Reimagine your process
Self-service analytics does not mean end users are allowed unfettered access to all data. It means they have the freedom to explore pertinent business data that is trusted, secure, and governed.

This is where process comes into play. This is the component that requires the most significant shift in traditional IT thinking. A successful modern BI program can deliver both IT control and end-user autonomy and agility. A well-established process is required to strike this delicate balance.

A waterfall-based process limits access to only a few specialists who are expected to meet the needs and answer the questions of the many. This approach often fails to deliver on the promise of BI—to deliver tangible value through improved decision-making with minimal time, effort, and cost.

A modern analytics solution requires new processes and newly-defined organizational roles and responsibilities to truly enable a collaborative self-service-based development process. IT and users must collaborate to jointly develop the rules of the road.

IT’s success is highlighted, and its value to the organization realized, when the business can realize significant value and benefit from investments in analytics and BI.

Implement a platform that IT loves and the business trusts
Since BI has been historically viewed as an IT initiative, it is not surprising that IT drove virtually every aspect of platform evaluation, selection, purchasing, implementation, deployment, development, and administration.

But with drastic changes required to modernize the people and process components of a BI and analytics program, IT must change the criteria for choosing the technology to meet these evolving requirements. Perhaps the most obvious change is that IT must intimately involve business users and analysts from across the organization.

A modern platform must address a wide range of needs as well as the increased pace of business and the exponential growth in data volume and complexity. Organizations need a platform that can adapt to an evolving data landscape and insulate users from increased complexity and change.

The most critical aspect is the ability to meet these diverse needs in an integrated and intuitive way—without having to introduce separate products or modules to execute specific tasks along the way.

Become a strategic partner to the business
As organizations shift their approach to analytics, IT leaders should seize the opportunity to redefine their role. Adopting a collaborative approach to truly support self-service is the key to changing the perception of IT from a producer to a strategic partner and enabler for the organization.



Best Self-Service Business Intelligence Software


Self-service business intelligence (BI) software empowers business users to investigate company data, and reveal patterns and insights. Self-service BI products are designed to be set up and used by average business users without the need for input by IT. Businesses require intelligence throughout their company structure to determine the health of metrics, and how different metrics and data points are related. This analysis can locate opportunities and areas of improvement, and is necessary to continue adapting and refining business strategies. Self-service BI products consume data in its many forms, from file uploads and direct connectors to databases and business applications.

To qualify as a self-service BI platform, a product must:
•Consume data from any source through file uploads, database querying, and application connectors.
•Transform data into a useful and relatable model.
•Support data modeling, blending, and discovery processes.
•Create reports and visualizations with business utility.
•Be able to be configured and used by average business users with little IT involvement.

Products in our Self-Service BI category are designed to be primarily configured and used by non-technical business users like managers and analysts. For more customizable and comprehensive platforms that require IT involvement for designing and deploying internal analytics applications, look at our BI Platforms category. Our Data Visualization category houses products primarily designed to create charts, graphs, and benchmark visualizations.

Self-Service Business Intelligence Software Grid Overview
The best Self-Service Business Intelligence Software are determined by customer satisfaction (based on user reviews) and scale (based on market share, vendor size, and social impact) and placed into four categories on the Grid:
•Leaders are rated highly by G2 Crowd users and have substantial scale, market share, and global support and service resources. Leaders include: Zoho Reports, Tableau Desktop, Microsoft Power BI, Qlik Sense, and SAP Crystal Reports
•High Performers are highly rated by their users, but have not yet achieved the market share and scale of the Leaders. High Performers include: Izenda, Dundas BI, Alteryx, Chartio, and Datorama
•Contenders have significant Market Presence and resources, but have received below average user Satisfaction ratings or have not yet received a sufficient number of reviews to validate the solution. Contenders include: Salesforce Wave Analytics, JMP, and Jaspersoft
•Niche solutions do not have the Market Presence of the Leaders. They may have been rated positively on customer Satisfaction, but have not yet received enough reviews to validate them. Niche products include: ReportServer, Analyzer, Panorama Necto, Looker, and DecisionPoint