Big data has the potential to transform business and enables business leaders to make data-driven decisions faster. However, the traditional, IT-centric business intelligence (BI) favoured by some companies tends to fall flat when it comes to user adoption. Even a watertight analytics strategy that seems to work in theory will prove ineffective if employees don’t use tools in the right way, or at all. Frequent bottlenecks, limited data exploration capabilities, and a lack of relevant and timely insight have been cited as the culprits of a poor overall user experience and limited usage. A survey completed by BI Scorecard in 2014 reported that adoption rates have hovered around a paltry 22 per cent for the past several years.
So how do businesses engage the remaining 78 per cent of their employees? Self-service BI can provide the capabilities organisations need to get users fully involved in analytics. It allows individuals to connect with data in meaningful ways and enables a more flexible, responsive approach to analysis and reporting. In the past, reporting has been the domain of the IT team, but this new approach empowers employees to import and model data, build interactive dashboards, and create their own reports, freeing up the IT team to focus on other business-critical needs.
As an added benefit, self-service BI facilitates agility by giving users the tools to act on their own without waiting for the IT team to build a new model or solution. The advantages of integrating self-service BI into an existing enterprise BI platform are numerous, and there are a few key points that businesses must ensure they address if they want to improve adoption rates. Meeting these four requirements will largely eliminate the frustrations that can come with even the best BI strategy.
Ensure access to the right data at the right time
To help employees get started with self-service BI, it’s essential to give them quick and easy access to accurate and relevant information. Waiting for pages to load or access to be granted can be frustrating for users and slow the overall process to a standstill. Ensuring access makes it easy for users to create their own reports and visualisations and build confidence with their new tools— this makes them more likely to continue to use the technology their company has invested in.
Focus on the Big Three: ease of use, agility, and features
When deploying a self-service BI platform, these three things can make the difference between widespread adoption and a failed solution.
- Ease of use: a good self-service tool is intuitive, with clear instructions and simple processes. This ensures it’s easy to create and share professional-looking dashboards without much additional training or support.
- Agility: data management capabilities are key to user adoption. Good tools offer everything employees need in a single platform: from self-service data preparation to visual data discovery and enterprise BI.
- Features: a focus on including a variety of features means users have many options for presenting their data. The ability to combine data and tables from multiple sources into a single dataset can lead to faster data preparation and better performance.
Shift the role of IT from enforcement to enablement
Self-service BI lets IT teams shift their focus to more strategic initiatives while retaining control of performance, security, and scalability. With this approach, IT can help a company meet their business needs by setting best practices, providing training, helping with issues, answering questions, informing employees of new data sources, and helping validate analytic content—especially when multiple sources are combined.
This support is invaluable, but means that users can carry out tasks on their own schedule. Regular sessions with the IT team are key to success with self-service BI and will empower users to work on data preparation and report production themselves.
Promote collaboration within and across communities
Self-service BI creates more opportunities for collaboration across teams, allowing valuable data to have a company-wide impact. It’s important to promote open communication across seemingly disparate groups and emphasise the benefit of sharing relevant dashboards across departments. Employees can take this to the next level by collaborating within a dashboard, adding comments, and exploring data throughout the working day. This makes meetings far more interactive, dynamic, and productive as new ideas and approaches can be incorporated.
Deploying self-service BI can seem like a daunting task, especially following a hefty investment in new software and the incorporation of new processes. By demonstrating the benefits of self-service BI and requesting frequent feedback, businesses can get even their most sceptical employees on board. At a minimum, businesses should adhere to the advice above to ensure that the solution works for employees in different departments and across different levels. Appointing a Chief Data Officer to bridge the gap between IT and the business can also help ease the transition and ensure focused evaluation of the process. However, it is important to remember that even when a self-service BI approach is successful, the onus is still on the organisation to ensure that the analytics are managed and maintained over time. That being said, it can be a game-changing approach for an organisation equipping them with the flexibility required to respond to rapidly changing market requirements.
Hugh Owen, SVP, Product Marketing, MicroStrategy
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