How IT Can Empower the Enterprise with Self-Service Analytics at Scale

BrandPost By Josh Parenteau, Product Manager
Feb 28, 2017

Business intelligence used to be a top-down affair which IT often approached in the same manner as traditional IT projects. The business makes a request of IT, IT logs a ticket, then fulfills the request following a waterfall methodology.

While this approach centralized data and promoted consistency, it sacrificed business agility. There was a significant lag between question and answer. And this delay led to lackluster adoption and low overall business impact. 

Fast-forward to today and IT finds itself at a crossroad with self-service BI as the new normal that can no longer be ignored. The business demands the agility that comes with self-service to drive and improve business outcomes through data-driven decision-making.

This presents IT with an important choice. Either embrace the demand for self-service BI and enable the broader use and impact of analytics, or ignore the trend and continue producing lower-value enterprise reporting stifled by the limitations of traditional tools. IT professionals who are ready to serve as the catalyst will deliver far greater value than those who choose to ignore the real needs of their business users and analysts. 

As organizations begin the transition from a traditional approach driven by IT to a self-service approach enabled by IT and led by the business, a new framework is required. This means that past decisions supporting the core foundational components of a BI program—people, process, and platform—must be revisited. 

Prioritize People and Their Needs

A successful transition to self-service analytics begins with people. In a traditional BI model, people were often considered last after platform and process. IT often took the “if you build it, they will come” approach. 

But even after they built it, most people did not come. That’s because there was little to no collaboration between the business users and IT during the process of building the solution after an upfront requirements-gathering phase.

Collaboration between the business and IT is critical to the success of the implementation. IT knows how to manage data and the business knows how to use the insights to drive business decisions. Early collaboration will not only lead to the deployment of a platform that meets the needs of the business but also drives adoption and impact of the platform overall. 

Reimagine Your Process

Self-service analytics does not mean end users are allowed unfettered access to all data. It means they have the freedom to explore pertinent business data that is trusted, secure, and governed.

This is where process comes into play. This is the component that requires the most significant shift in traditional IT thinking. A successful modern BI program can deliver both IT control and end-user autonomy and agility. A well-established process is required to strike this delicate balance.

A waterfall-based process limits access to only a few specialists who are expected to meet the needs and answer the questions of the many. This approach often fails to deliver on the promise of BI—to deliver tangible value through improved decision-making with minimal time, effort, and cost.

A modern analytics solution requires new processes and newly-defined organizational roles and responsibilities to truly enable a collaborative self-service-based development process. IT and users must collaborate to jointly develop the rules of the road.

IT’s success is highlighted, and its value to the organization realized, when the business can realize significant value and benefit from investments in analytics and BI.

Implement a Platform that IT Loves and the Business Trusts

Since BI has been historically viewed as an IT initiative, it is not surprising that IT drove virtually every aspect of platform evaluation, selection, purchasing, implementation, deployment, development, and administration.

But with drastic changes required to modernize the people and process components of a BI and analytics program, IT must change the criteria for choosing the technology to meet these evolving requirements. Perhaps the most obvious change is that IT must intimately involve business users and analysts from across the organization.

A modern platform must address a wide range of needs as well as the increased pace of business and the exponential growth in data volume and complexity. Organizations need a platform that can adapt to an evolving data landscape and insulate users from increased complexity and change.

The most critical aspect is the ability to meet these diverse needs in an integrated and intuitive way—without having to introduce separate products or modules to execute specific tasks along the way.

Become a Strategic Partner to the Business

As organizations shift their approach to analytics, IT leaders should seize the opportunity to redefine their role. Adopting a collaborative approach to truly support self-service is the key to changing the perception of IT from a producer to a strategic partner and enabler for the organization.

To learn more about the new role of IT, check out our full whitepaper, Redefining the Role of IT in a Modern BI World.