Business Intelligence Blog from arcplan
13Jul/120

3 Ways Self-Service BI Aids Decision-Making

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There's a lot of talk about expanding the reach of business intelligence beyond the 15-25% of potential users currently using BI solutions. Certainly it's one of our core missions at arcplan. With nearly everyone in an organization making decisions every day that affect the company, getting this remaining 75% of potential users to answer their business questions with data is imperative. The solution is self-service BI – tools that allow users to navigate and visualize data themselves to get the answers they need to make important business decisions on their timeline. In many ways, self-service BI is synonymous with user freedom since business users need not wait for the IT department to fulfill report requests, but instead are able to generate queries on their own and tailor reports according to their requirements.

We spent some time thinking about the ways self-service BI aids decision-making. Check out our list and let us know if you have more to add to it!

1) It gives users access to real-time information for faster decision-making.
Ad-hoc reporting, one of the tools under the self-service umbrella, allows users to create new connections between data not previously found in static reports and generate new insights on their own. According to Cindi Howson's report, The Five Myths of Self-Service BI, executives and managers are a segment of users beyond power users and IT developers who derive value from ad-hoc reporting. If given the chance, a sales director for instance would use an easy ad-hoc solution like arcplan Spotlight to run a query of YTD product sales and compare performance across different regions, rather than wait a week or more for IT to deliver the same information to him. He could also save that query privately or publish it publicly, giving his entire team access to it for future reference. He could even select that report for automatic delivery via e-mail, where it will include the most updated data. The ability to access real-time data and create new reports on the fly means that business users get immediate answers to business questions and can make decisions based on current (versus outdated) information.

2) It addresses specific user needs for greater efficiency.
Self-service tools target the specific needs of users, allowing them to glean the most value out their BI and enabling more efficient decision-making. The most sophisticated users want access to a full-fledged ad-hoc reporting system. Executives may simply want interactive dashboards with an ad-hoc component. Business users often desire ad-hoc but are not technical enough to explore data completely on their own. For those users, a "guided ad-hoc" experience may be the remedy. This means structuring ad-hoc so users have the flexibility to generate their own reports within certain parameters. For example, a guided ad-hoc tool may allow the user to build a report from a list of predetermined columns and rows via drag-and-drop, or access to an IT-approved, scrubbed set of data that meets the organization's data governance standards. Either way, guided ad-hoc provides users with a solid foundation for creating their reports along with complete flexibility to generate the answers they need.

3) It enables collaboration around decision-relevant information.
Self-service also means allowing employees to collaborate on BI and analytics to make better decisions. Going beyond e-mailing and meetings, Collaborative BI solutions enable conversation and knowledge-sharing around reports and dashboards, empowering users to take ownership of their own information access. arcplan's Collaborative BI solution, arcplan Engage, also includes a powerful search feature that enables employees to find the information they need themselves. Building a report or dashboard from scratch may not be the forte of some business users, so the ability to search for a report that approximates what they need is a great help. They can use a colleague's pre-existing report as a guide to create the report they need. This is, in a sense, another form of guided ad-hoc. Although search is a powerful function, collaboration does not end there; it also includes user contribution. Aside from commenting and rating, users typically have several sources of information to base their decisions on, structured and unstructured. Modern Collaborative BI solutions allow them to simply add these to the information base, making them available to other users for their decision-making.

Self-service is a growing trend changing the landscape of BI. Organizations are quickly adopting ad-hoc and Collaborative BI tools in order to empower employees to extract insights to guide their decision-making. In turn, these companies achieve improved performance due to employees' faster, more accurate decisions. As more companies see the value of self-service BI, these tools will become the primary method of expanding the BI user community in 2012 and beyond.




arcplan Spotlight is our web-based ad-hoc reporting tool that makes users self-sufficient. Drag-and-drop makes it easy for users to build queries, which can then be enhanced with graphics, saved privately or publicly, and distributed to colleagues. See it in action in this brief video.

 

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