Self-service business intelligence allows managers to think outside the box. Source: Shutterstock

Self-service business intelligence allows managers to think outside the box. Source: Shutterstock

How self-service business intelligence helps managers win big

COMMERCIAL DATA helps create business intelligence. With more data, collected in real-time, businesses can create intelligence more quickly.

However, if managers aren’t able to access that data and use that intelligence in their decision-making process, organizations don’t gain from building real-time data capture and processing capabilities.

In an FMCG company, for example, data about production, demand, and logistics may all be available in real-time, but if regional sales managers don’t have access to it, they’ll be unable to customize deals in local markets to boost profitability.

The reason that business intelligence isn’t available on-demand in many organizations is simple: they’ve have adopted the traditional approach to business intelligence where IT teams own the data and different business units must request for data-powered reports as and when they need them.

Often, the request must be accompanied by a business case and permissions from various teams to access the data, which further slows down the process.

The traditional approach is believed to be secure because it seems to uses a strong data governance policy to ensure only the right people have access to the right data.

In the early days when business intelligence first made a debut, the traditional approach was perhaps suitable. Today, business managers are the new analysts and need access to data in real-time.

The power of self-service business intelligence

Self-service business intelligence allows managers to get creative with problem-solving in their region or division.

Let’s study a few use cases to understand how managers can leverage such a tool:

  • When a manufacturer’s purchase manager is placing orders for raw materials, studying historical trends and factoring in weather, economic indicators, and other metrics might help uncover new insights that allow for better optimizations.
  • Marketing managers working for consumer electronics companies can sometimes use real-time data from stores to gauge which retail chains in which regions are experiencing strong demand to either double-down on those regions or shift focus to other regions.
  • Finance managers can use data in various permutations and combinations to understand how they can make the most of the credit they receive from their suppliers and bankers while ensuring payments are received from customers on time.

Managers looking for a competitive advantage in the marketplace appreciate the fact that they’re able to access data, query it, and explore interesting insights instead of having to wait for weeks, if not more, to get the IT teams to build the reports they seek.

The ability to play analyst not only helps managers think outside the box but also allows them to slowly understand, trust, and rely on data — which is crucial for businesses as they leapfrog into the digital world.

Self-service business intelligence needs training

Although managers want access to data and self-service business intelligence, it doesn’t mean they necessarily understand what it entails.

The reason IT teams initially put a digital fence around the tool and asked managers to make ad-hoc requests when they needed anything other than pre-approved reports was because most managers aren’t tech-savvy and don’t know any programming at all.

Today’s self-service business intelligence tools are simple to use but managers still need a bit of training.

Organizations adopting such an approach for the first time must remember that managers must be taken on a journey where they’re equipped with the skills to understand the sources and kinds of data that are available to them along with the capabilities of the tools that are provided to them.

Simply acquiring a tool that captures data and allows for it to be analyzed on-demand won’t cut it, especially in organizations where managers don’t have a technical bent of mind or where relying on data isn’t part of the culture. In such environments, the investment will fail to provide returns of any kind.

Data security should not be a concern

One of the biggest reasons organizations preferred the traditional approach to business intelligence was that they believed it allowed for better data security, privacy, and governance.

A self-service business intelligence tool, on the other hand, might seem to provide everyone with access to all kinds of data — but that’s not true.

Most tools allow organizations to create well-defined data structures and governance policies to ensure only the right people in the organization have access to the right data.

Further, tools today understand the need for quick (if not real-time) data access. Hence, they make it easy to request for access to data (sources), further simplifying the process of generating insights.

Overall, the self-service approach doesn’t create any additional risks for an organization. Instead, it forces business leaders to take data governance more seriously and ensure the right policies are in place.

Businesses that want to make the most of their data must explore self-service business intelligence tools this year. Neglecting to do so could cost the company and its managers dearly, especially in today’s competitive marketplace.