Self-Service BI - Drivers and Enablers

Enabling Self-Service BI
Following up on my last post, 10 Principles of Self-Service Business Intelligence, I thought I'd provide some links to other key articles on this subject. As you read below, self-service BI was defined as an alternative to complex BI solutions, overwhelmed IT departments with reporting needs, and error prone spread sheets. Gartner and TDWI's articles are particularly good reads for ideas and insights on BI-driven organizational transformation. 

  •  Gartner's Kurt Schlegel has a presentation, How to Deliver Self Service Business Intelligence with a nice slide (Slide 10) depicting why self-service. On one side, there is the "dull side" of analytics covering static and basic interactive reports and on the other, there is the "dark side" of data dumps processed in Microsoft Excel or Access. Self-Service BI lies in the middle of these extremes and allows data scientists to ask good questions and conduct data discovery tasks that lead to new insights.

  • TechTarget reports that Self Service BI reports that user interfaces must be intuitive and that IT departments should take responsibility to define a metadata dictionary and security policies.

  • Information Age reported on the impact of Self Service BI on key technology enablers. Tableau Software saw sales double in 2012 to $128 million. In April QlikTech reported 22% revenue growth year-on-year for its first quarter of the financial year up to $96.5 million. Meanwhile established BI vendors like MicroStrategy  reported a 6% decline in sales to $130 million in a recent quarter.

  •  In 5 Ways to Bring Self-Service BI to Small and Mid-Size Businesses, the issues with relying on spreadsheets are spelled out -
    Spreadsheets containing confidential data are often emailed around among employees, representing a potential data security breach. Spreadsheet formula syntax is not intuitive, making it difficult to find and debug errors. Macros, pivot tables and links to other spreadsheets are fragile and easily broken. Spreadsheet data can be typed over and changed so it is subject to errors.
    - however, the author notes that these spreadsheets are the best starting points for transforming to a BI self service program
  • Back in November 2011, TDWI's Introduction to Self-Service BI reported that 78% of survey respondents stated that they needed a faster time to value from BI solutions leading many businesses to seek alternative approaches. It lists two key themes — usability and consumability — that are the foundations of many self-service BI tools.

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About Isaac Sacolick

Isaac Sacolick is President of StarCIO, a technology leadership company that guides organizations on building digital transformation core competencies. He is the author of Digital Trailblazer and the Amazon bestseller Driving Digital and speaks about agile planning, devops, data science, product management, and other digital transformation best practices. Sacolick is a recognized top social CIO, a digital transformation influencer, and has over 900 articles published at InfoWorld,, his blog Social, Agile, and Transformation, and other sites. You can find him sharing new insights @NYIke on Twitter, his Driving Digital Standup YouTube channel, or during the Coffee with Digital Trailblazers.