Making the change to self-service BI

By Rudie Vermaak, Associate Client Partner at Decision Inc.

The concept of self-service business intelligence (BI) is one that many companies are at odds with. As is often the case, you have those who want to embrace it while others are still struggling to get their head around traditional BI. This however does not need to be the case.

For the former, it is quite a strenuous exercise going through the process of explaining the importance of self-service BI in the context of those organisations already using predictive analytics. In the case of the latter, many businesses are still using spreadsheets to do a lot of intelligence work even though this is not a typical BI tool.

Irrespective of the strategic approach being followed, most of the direction comes from management and what they are comfortable with. If they do not see the worth of either self-service BI or ‘normal’ BI, then neither will be a success at the organisation.

Different focus

Realistically, it is mid-management and the workers themselves that must go the self-service route as it simplifies their work and enables them to improve the processes within an organisation. This helps the company to grow, improve efficiencies and business performance, and establish a culture of teamwork when self-service BI is implemented.

Employees will derive far greater job satisfaction when the mundane tasks are automated. And the best way to do this? Self-service BI. Going this automated route does not mean jobs will be lost but rather that people will be given the tools needed to make their life easier.

For self-service BI to succeed, a company must look at it from a bottom-up approach. This is quite difficult to achieve as many organisations incorrectly view BI as a ‘nice-to-have’ not a necessity. However, for the workers on the ground who understand its value, using self-service BI solutions are fundamental to the potential of an enterprise.

Transformative

This shift is significant if a business is to digitally transform. If a company is not prepared to invest in even the most basic elements of change required, then the organisation can never truly embrace digital transformation.

While there will always be an element of risk in implementing a solution such as self-service BI, finding the right partner to assist with change management and user adoption is critical to the overall success. Using a reputable service provider ensures the business has a plan to migrate from its existing processes to a more automated and dynamic one. Fundamentally, it entails getting people comfortable with the tools they need to use daily.

Data-driven

To initiate this transition requires a hard look at how important data is for the business. Many senior managers only want a daily report and do not necessarily understand the merits of self-service BI. However, if they start embracing it, they will empower staff to make better decisions and report better based on more effective data analysis.

Companies need to take baby steps in moving the organisation into this environment. A typical BI implementation might be considered too expensive and too slow to show a return on investment. For its part, self-service can be rolled out incrementally and help businesses make the transition easier than what they would do by ripping and replacing everything with pure BI.

Additionally by using self-service BI to address the pain points inside the company, its value will gradually reveal itself to senior managers. Furthermore, this will bring about a change in how data quality management is done and integrated throughout the organisation. Self-service BI will ultimately enable the company to become more proactive and deliver more discernible growth faster.