The cloud-based BI reporting and visualization tools we know and love today have changed the way business leaders leverage data and make decisions. Yet self-service BI isn’t simply the latest and greatest “on-demand feature” afforded by cloud-based software. By putting interactive dashboards at users’ fingertips, it’s taken take the heavy-lifting number-crunching away from IT teams and enabled levels of information access and business agility the world has never known.

Here, we’re taking an up-close-and-personal look at the self-service BI trend to help you select the right business software and BI tools for your company.

A Quick Trip Down Memory Lane

In order to truly appreciate the power today’s self-service BI technology, we really need to take a quick look back at what BI used to be, before cloud-based software swept on the scene to take on-demand reporting and visualization to the non-technical masses.

You may remember when data lived on paper and was manually keyed into desktop computers, right around the time when decision support systems became popular tools for leveraging business information? It simply wasn’t possible to check-in for a quick real-time analysis of where the business is today. Self-service BI meant taking a peek at some adjacent columns of black-and-white data sputtered out by a dot matrix printer.

Even when “data warehousing” became all the rage and OLAP software and ETL tools provided a solution for analyzing more sophisticated data sets, you still couldn’t log in to your system and run a colorful visualization to share with the team in your afternoon meeting. You called your IT department to pull reports, or pulled them yourself using desktop software that cranked out data that, by the time it was “ready,” was already outdated. Self-service BI meant having the freedom to connect spreadsheets and device complex formulas to get the information you needed yesterday.

Fortunately, as you continued to introduce new business systems into your legacy environment, the practice of “business intelligence” (by now a trendy buzzword) improved. But it still took a long time to find data-backed answers in time, considering the increasing number of data silos forming around you. Thankfully, web technology was ready for prime time.

Cloud-based BI to the Rescue

Cloud-based programs brought BI—in its modern, more recognizable form—to the people who need it most: decision-makers, not the IT help desk. And the timing was perfect, as BI software users were browsing the internet in their spare time, using mobile phones to communicate, and eventually collaborating with both friends and colleagues over social media. They were ready for business software they could access anytime, from any connected device, for up-to-the-minute insights.

That’s the self-service BI we’re working with today.

TechTarget defines self-service business intelligence as an approach to data analytics that enables business users to access and work with corporate data even though they do not have a background in statistical analysis, business intelligence or data mining. It allows users to make decisions based using personalized data sets and any number of pre-defined or customizable report templates, on their own, and on-demand.

Find more insights in Dashboards Elegantly Reveal The Truth Behind Your Data.

And since cloud-based data collection, storage, and processing services stay ahead of the data volume and capacity limitations of yesteryear, insights are ready and available for use at a moment’s notice. That is, in real time. It’s no wonder organizations are investing heavily in BI technology, specifically of the self-service variety.

BI-Survey.com’s Top Business Intelligence Trends 2018: What 2,770 BI Professionals Really Think reveals that Self-service BI is the third most important BI trend, behind Master Data/DQ management and Data discovery/visualization, and ahead of 17 other trends. The analysts note that while self-service tools give business users the autonomy and agility they need to integrate, analyze, and visualize data—earning self-service BI it’s #3 spot—there’s still a need for more data governance to ensure the right users are using the right information in the right ways.

In setting up a BI system, organizations are wise to put strategy and effort into the data governance piece, which includes everything from defining success metrics to who can access the software and the processes for creating and sharing reports. That way, the self-service BI tools are sure to perform—and inform—in exactly the way users need them to.

To learn more about BI trends, download the free whitepaper Out of the Spreadsheet and into the Cloud: 5 Key Considerations When Implementing a Modern BI.

Feel free to contact us to learn more about implementing the right BI tools for your company today.

Additional Resources:

Power BI and Microsoft Dynamics: Decision Making for the 21st Century Need Help Picking the Right BI Tool For Your Business? Power BI

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