DATA ANALYTICS

4 Benefits of Self-Service BI & Analytics

Devon Tackels

Content Marketing Manager, Sigma

Traditional business intelligence (BI) relies on IT or a data team to uncover insights from data. If you don’t have a data engineering background and knowledge of SQL, you’re stuck having to submit a request and wait for a report. Self-service BI and analytics, by contrast, requires no coding expertise — software makes it simple to run queries and create reports without writing SQL. In this post, we’re exploring why this capability is so essential by looking at four benefits self-service BI and analytics bring to business. 

 A self-service BI strategy allows everyone to explore data

The real power of self-service BI is that it democratizes data. Armed with data skills alone, business users can explore the data for answers to important questions. They can then ask followup questions triggered by the initial search, diving in for insights that can make the difference between an effective decision or one that misses the mark.

Sigma has proved to be priceless in helping us make more informed decisions and empowering all employees to think like analysts.

Lucy Dana

Product Manager – Growth, Blue Bottle Coffee

Self-service BI and analytics creates a culture of curiosity where domain experts are encouraged to ask questions and uncover why trends or problems are happening, what’s causing certain patterns of activity, and what actions are correlated with which events.

 Self-service BI enables better, faster decision-making

Decisions based on incomplete data can lead to serious mistakes. Unfortunately, 63% of employees report they don’t get the information they need in the required timeframe. 

*Researchscape Computing Curiosity Study, 2018

When domain experts can get deeper-dive answers quickly, they can base decisions on the full picture. And with confidence that they’re seeing all the data affecting a decision, they can move more quickly. Speed also comes as a result of the real-time nature of self-service BI. People can run queries and create reports when they need them, rather than having to wait on IT or the data team to get to their request (one of many in the queue).

The ability to move fast allows domain experts to take advantage of time-sensitive opportunities. It also enables them to uncover sources of problems before they grow and cause havoc. Problems ranging from product issues to customer service challenges can cost companies significantly if they aren’t dealt with in a timely manner. And problems cannot be resolved if no one knows what’s causing them.

 Self-service BI frees up IT staff and data teams to work on other projects

Data experts possess valuable skills and experience that should be dedicated to important projects. When they spend all their time rushing out ad-hoc reports, they don’t have the ability to focus on non-urgent-but- just-as-important work. Here are just a few ways companies can better utilize IT staff and data teams.

  • Teach data skills to domain experts — The old maxim “Give a man a fish and you will feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime,” is apropos here. When data teams encourage data literacy and teach domain experts vital skills, they empower them to do this work on their own.
  • Lend expertise to complex queries — Sometimes business users will need answers that are difficult to get to. They require complex queries and special knowledge. Data experts can apply their expertise to these queries.
  • Answer big-picture questions — Ad-hoc reports are typically requested by domain experts trying to answer questions relevant to their particular business unit. But companies also need answers to the big-picture questions that affect operations as a whole. The answers to these big-picture questions will drive company strategy in important areas.
  • Perform predictive data analysis — Insights from the past inform the future. Companies need consistent and reliable predictive data analysis. These projects take time, and because they’re not “urgent,” they often get relegated to the back burner when data teams are inundated with ad -hoc reporting requests.

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 Self-service BI enables collaboration

There’s a reason that humanity began experiencing a snowball of advances in technology when we started coming together from our small villages to form larger cities. As people share thoughts, and as ideas bump up against one another, insights expand far beyond what they would have otherwise. The same is true in organizations. Collaboration is another primary benefit of self-service BI. When domain experts from individual business units come together and share, several things happen:

  • They’re able to see the big picture — Collaboration allows teams to see what surrounds their individual pieces, giving them context. And the ability to see context provides greater accuracy.
  • Problems are more easily solved when addressed holistically — Without the full picture, it takes longer to solve problems. When the bottom line hinges on speed in problem-solving, the ability to move quickly is invaluable.
  • Collaboration leads to stronger teams — At a time when company culture serves a valuable business asset, the ability to build a strong team is the holy grail. People become more invested as they collaborate and see how their individual contributions have impact on a broader scale.
  • Compound analytical interest forms— A team thrives when members share and elevate each others’ work. This is how you build compound interest with data. You initially draw insights from the principal, but then you (and others) draw insights from those insights. These compound insights aren’t just limited to teams. With the right tools, there’s no limit to how much it can grow— organization-wide or even with external partners.

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The many benefits of Self-service BI and analytics give companies the ability to better utilize the skills and experience of the people in the organization. When people are freed to do what they do best, companies can optimize every part of their operations.

Learn more about the benefits of self-service BI and analytics in our free definitive guide

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