It’s a topic that’s on everyone’s lips nowadays but somewhere in the hype cycle it has become almost synonymous with Data Discovery, and the notion that regular business users should be given access to raw, unstructured data to gather their own business insight.
We believe this definition is far too narrow.
In an effort to widen the definition of self-service BI, we turned to three analogies – some we’ve picked up at industry events and some our own people have invented and used in their own presentations.
The three analogies can be condensed down to this:
- The self-service restaurant: No one ever asks you to come into the kitchen, chop your own lettuce and tomatoes, fry your own bacon and assemble your BLT – you pick up a BLT that someone, most probably the chefs and kitchen staff, has prepared for you.
- Fishing: When we want fish for dinner, very few of us decide to grab the rod and head out to sea. Most of us head down to the fishmonger, pick up a fish that has been caught, killed and gutted for us, so we don’t need to spend time waiting for a fish to bite.
- The gas station: Do you know how the gas that powers your car is refined? If you do, you know how long it takes and how many experts are involved. If you don’t, it goes a bit like this: the supply chain starts with geologists using their knowledge of rock formations to identify oil reserves, then an expert team drills a well and starts pumping crude oil, which is transported to a refinery where the crude oil is distilled into various products, including gasoline. Wouldn’t you much rather just drive up to the pump, get out of your car and start filling your tank?
It should be the same with business intelligence. Instead of your sales people, store managers or call centre team leaders wasting their valuable time endlessly ploughing through raw data in search of potential business insights, they need BI that’s been pre-prepared for them. As with the refining of oil into gas, scrubbing, structuring and preparing data should be left to the experts, not the regular business users.
That way, regular business users are served with pre-prepared information that they can easily understand and interpret (we believe the interactive dashboard is the ideal medium to deliver this – more on that here), that doesn’t require training to use and that provides custom workflows that fit the way the business users thinks, so they can easily answer their follow-up questions without going back to the dashboard designer. This is what most people need most of the time.