Debating the Value of Self-Service BI and Analytics
A new Forbes article questions the effectiveness of moving towards a BI and analytics model that is predominantly self-service. Author Bernard Marr says, "When no one is taking charge of the interpretation and analysis centrally, it often means that no one is getting the big picture. If companies only offer self-service analytics they run the risk that people miss key insights, misinterpret the data or perform the wrong analysis."
Marr makes some valid points, and we agree that some reporting and analysis activities should be conducted by more tech-savvy analysts and power users. However, we believe that - with the right platform - large numbers of business users can engage in self-service BI and analytics in a way that allows them to obtain a holistic view of data and then operationalize it, turning facts into action that leads to results.
InfoApps are one effective way to accomplish this. This type of interactive analytical content provides end users with a wealth of information that makes it easy to answer specific questions or solve certain problems.
Hawkins, a Minnesota-based chemical manufacturer, supports its growth strategy with dashboards and InfoApps that empower users in sales, accounting, transportation, purchasing, and other departments to easily manipulate information on their own to meet their specific needs. “Our staff has much greater visibility into our enterprise data,” explains Jeremy Sturgill, the company's enterprise application technical manager. “They used to have to visit multiple screens to collect and combine the information they needed. Now they can get what they need in a single view.”
Narrative Charts offer yet another way to promote broad self-service BI adoption by allowing users to obtain deeper insights than what can be typically conveyed in dashboards and graphs. Natural language capabilities, embedded into WebFOCUS, interpret data and automatically express conclusions in natural language, providing contextual explanations to augment visualizations. Experienced self-service BI users can create their own charts and determine the corresponding narrative accompaniment, while less technical knowledge workers can have this functionality defined for them and presented via an InfoApp.
Given the burden that centralized reporting can place on IT and power users, and the resulting delays in delivering information that can negatively impact decision making, it is important for organizations to leverage technologies like these to empower their business users to independently obtain their own insights.