Self-service Business Intelligence

The business case for BI is well-understood, and most enterprises are now reaping the benefits of analytic solutions that help them better understand the marketplace and improve their own performance. However, many challenges remain in actually delivering these capabilities to business users quickly and cost-effectively.

For many users, BI requirements can change quickly and IT has trouble keeping up. Users think they know the requirements, but by the time IT delivers a solution the landscape has changed due to competition, re-organization, mergers, regulatory issues, or a hundred other reasons. In many cases, users don’t really know what they want or need until they get their hands on something they can experiment with.

To meet these challenges, smart organizations are empowering business users with Self-service BI capabilities. By letting users create their own queries, reports, analytics and dashboards, solutions can be delivered faster and will more closely align with user needs.

“We maintain that in an ideal BI environment, 80% of all BI requirements should be carried out by the business users themselves.” The Forrester Wave™: Self-Service Business Intelligence Platforms, Q2 2012

There are numerous benefits to delivering BI solutions using a self-service model:

  • Self-service takes the burden off IT for many simple tasks and frees up highly skilled (and expensive) staff to work on more important projects, such as building more cost-effective BI infrastructure or optimizing performance.
  • Results are delivered to the business faster because there’s no endless iteration with end-users to fine-tune the requirements. This helps to clear the always-growing backlog of BI requests.
  • Users can get personalized results more relevant to their specific job functions. They’re not limited to someone else’s vision of what information they should see or how it’s presented.

Self-service BI shouldn’t be used for everything – some functions should be retained by IT. There are many corporate-level reports and KPIs that need to be highly accurate to minimize liability or meet regulatory requirements. Also, BI solutions that are cross-business unit may be the subject of conflicting user requirements and IT will have to maintain some control to ensure consistent, reliable results. And any solution where the results are externally-visible is probably not a good candidate for the self-service model.

What are some of the keys to a successful self-service BI solution?

  • You need to have the right processes in place, and the right roles and responsibilities defined. For example, the support requirements for self-service users generating sophisticated queries are different than for users simply running monthly reports.
  • Data Governance is critical to ensuring consistency in the way users design queries, make calculations and interpret results. Data policies and processes should be established before the self-service BI project is undertaken. An automated solution for checking on data quality can be helpful in this environment as well.
  • With self-service BI comes greater user autonomy and greater risk. Establishing security guidelines and access controls on data will be essential to ensure that user don’t willfully or accidentally expose confidential information.
  • The technical skill of users will vary greatly, so the tools available must be intuitive and simple. Training should not be overlooked – it needs to cover not only the tool set but also the structure and sources of data, as well as any security policies.

There are any numbers of pitfalls to avoid when developing a self-service BI solution. If the users don’t understand the tools or data they’re operating on, they could easily produce erroneous result that lead to wrong conclusions. If the learning curve is too high, users will fall back to their previous habits (e.g., spreadsheets which can have a lot of accuracy and consistency problems).

If you manage a large IT organization, you may find it tough to relinquish control over analytics and dashboards, but making users self-sufficient is the only cost-effective way to meet the growing demands for access to data.

GRT is your go-to partner for delivering secure, accurate and reliable self-service capabilities to your business users.

  • We have extensive experience in building Business Process Management (BPM) and Key Performance Indicator (KPI) metrics and we’re skilled in designing solutions that tailor information for the different roles of users in your organization.
  • We leverage a proven, repeatable methodology to ensure quality results.
  • We provide solutions that allow users to focus on their core business issues and not on solving technology problems.


To learn more about how GRT can help empower your users with self-service BI, contact us