White paper

7 signs you need self-service reports & what's in it for IT

In the age of data discovery, a lot is riding on IT leaders and their teams. Managing the rapidly evolving data infrastructure is a challenge, not to mention the delicate balance between data accessibility and security.

But if there's one clear trend in the shift from business intelligence to data discovery, it's the need to provide analytics. With self-service tools, business users of all levels can mine their data for insights, to the benefit of their departments and their company. Here are some telltale signs more self-service reports are needed at your company, and how IT benefits.

We've also pulled out the first several pages of the whitepaper for you to read. Download the PDF on the right to read the rest.

IT leaders have a lot riding on their teams. Hot topics range from ensuring security and evaluating SaaS models to managing an exploding data infrastructure and supporting mobile devices. All this against the backdrop of shrinking budgets and faster delivery timeframes.

But there’s another growing pressure that IT must face: the need to provide analytics. Corporate leaders are acutely aware that buried in all their data is the secret sauce for competitive differentiation and industry leadership. And they turn to IT for the solution.

In this era, leaders within many industries – companies like Amazon, Capital One, and Harrah’s – have built their prowess on analytical cultures. As Thomas Davenport and Jeanne Harris explain in their book, Competing on Analytics, “Organizations are competing on analytics not just because they can…but also because they should.”

How can you close the gap between the goal to become a data-driven organization and the reality of tight budgets, a business intelligence (BI) team without bandwidth, and demand for solutions that can be up and running immediately? Self-service business intelligence.

Instead of confining your organization to a small number of expensive, elite BI professionals, self-service BI equips individuals throughout the organization to investigate their own data, including creating reports and dashboards as well as ad-hoc analysis.

The good news? These people are experts and they know exactly the questions they need to ask and answer. The great news? They’ll have a solution that gets them answers quickly that they, in turn, can share with colleagues, fueling the reality of a data-driven organization.

Are you ready?

How do you know you’re ready for self-service BI? Look for these 7 indicators:

  1. Execs are demanding analytics. Let’s face it – if your senior leadership team is pounding the table, insisting that you become a more data-driven organization, you can skip to “Getting started” at the end of this paper. But it’s likely that your team is seeing at least a few more of these indicators as well.
  2. Endless queue of report requests. You’ve thrown up your hands in exasperation knowing that you’ll never, ever get through the list that grows daily. Your crackerjack analyst team is doing their best, but they are only human. The best you can hope for is prioritizing the requests, which usually translates into the highest priority requests getting met, but most of the others falling on the floor.
  3. Reports lead to more reports. Despite your efforts to elicit a full set of requirements before building a report, the follow-up questions never end. While it’s good that your work reveals something interesting, it’s not so good that the only way to answer the next question (and the 20 after that) is to cycle back through your team.
  4. Frustration that data is old. One of the unavoidable realities in the cycle of requesting a report, waiting for the report, then asking more questions about the report is that data gets stale. Both our professional and personal worlds have evolved to where we expect instant gratification. This latency just doesn’t cut it.
  5. Demand for mashed-up data. While people might not use the term “mashed-up,” it’s what they have in mind when they say “could we layer some third-party market data on top,” or “I’ve got a bunch of stuff in an Excel file and I want to see how it relates to what’s here.” While you see the value of combining multiple data sources, it’s not practical for a centralized BI team to make all these adjustments.
  6. Desire for visual analysis. People get more out of their data when they can see it in meaningful visual forms versus scanning rows, columns, and tables. If people haven’t started requesting more visual data, they’re likely to start. How does this relate to self- service BI? When people can see their data in myriad forms, they aren’t coming back to you for new views to get their answers.
  7. It’s already happening. While not true everywhere, many organizations already have rogue self-service BI implementations. Resourceful business leaders recognize your team’s bandwidth limits, and they know they’ve got top talent and projects to deliver. The result is that many have implemented their own selfservice BI implementation. The silver lining for IT leaders is that these implementations are yielding bang-up results and you’ve got willing and eager constituents who will support your self-service BI efforts.

If any of these feels familiar, it’s time to get started with your self-service BI solution.

What’s in it for IT?

Self-service BI isn’t just about making more people able to do their own analytics. En route to this end game, IT benefits, too.

Optimize your data infrastructure

Instead of drowning in BI requests, you free up resources to determine how best to set permissions and access to the wealth of data you manage. Now when individuals in your company do their analytical work, you’re satisfied they’re accessing accurate and secure data.

Increase ROI on data investments

If you’re like most organizations, you’ve invested significantly in data warehouses, applications, and associated quality and integration to ensure your data is useful. By exposing this data to more people in the organization, the value of these assets skyrockets.

Maintain governance and security

This becomes especially valuable if you’re an organization with one of those renegade departments already using self-service BI. When you take charge of the implementation, you can layer in protocols that align with your IT standards.

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