Self Service BI is Heating Up


Over the past several years, businesses have increasingly adopted self-service business intelligence (BI). In its November 2016 “Self-Service BI Market – Global Forecast to 2021” report, Research and Markets forecast the global self-service BI market would double to US$7.31 billion by 2021.

The benefits seem clear. Whereas traditional BI is frequently seen as slow and rigid, self-service BI promises ease of use and agility. With self-service BI, business users can get access to the data and insights they need, when they need them, without having to rely on IT, which can often be a bottleneck with traditional business intelligence. By bypassing IT, the business can better capitalize on opportunities and quickly react to problems.

With self-service BI tools, such as Tableau, Qlik Sense, Power BI, and Domo, managers can obtain current business information in graphical form on demand. While a certain amount of setup by IT may be needed at the outset and when adding a data source, most of the work in cleaning data and creating analyses can be done by business analysts, and the analyses can update automatically from the latest data any time they are opened.

Managers can then interact with the analyses graphically to identify issues that need to be addressed. In a BI-generated dashboard or “story” about sales numbers, that might mean drilling down to find underperforming stores, salespeople, and products, or discovering trends in year-over-year same-store comparisons. These discoveries might in turn guide decisions about future stocking levels, product sales and promotions, and even the building of additional stores in under-served areas.

Though self-service BI is the way of the future, several experts caution that it does have its own drawbacks – the chief being Data Security. With business units owning and managing their own data marts, the overall business loses control of the security of its data. The data tends to proliferate throughout the organization. Sensitive business data may end up sitting in spreadsheets and other BI tools on laptops and other devices, and it can become impossible for the organization to keep track of where copies of the data exist. Data origination and data lineage can become highly problematic. The organizations need to address data security issues right at the outset when setting up business intelligence environment.