Mark Flaherty (MF): When it comes to business reporting requirements, most of the time business users spend a lot of time explaining what they need to do to the IT teams. After they get the report they spend more time realizing they needed to filter it a certain way, and have to go back and modify the request.
The reason for this inefficient cycle is the wrong choice in information management technologies. It must have limitations in terms of the data structure in the data warehouse and in terms of the front end, limitations in formatting capabilities, due to the lack of availability of standard formatted reports and the difficulty of creating ad hoc reports.
Business users are heavily dependent on IT in this traditional scenario. With all this difficulty in the daily access of information in the existing BI environment, business users have tended to avoid using the BI tools.
The absence of self-service BI, therefore, results in business people make fewer decisions based on fact, or they miss key facts that could be found in the data. This, in turn, results in riskier business performance, if not poorer results in the bottom line.
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Need for Self-service BI
So today many enterprises have become aware of the need for self-service BI, and placed it on their priority list, before the alarm bells start ringing. It is very critical for organizations to look at the existing internal BI architecture which has been developed over a period of time without a cohesive long-term strategy.
Organizations need to assess the existing BI environment and develop a new long-term strategy which will lead to a greater independence on IT for access required data. Based on this strategy a roadmap should be laid out to achieve a self-service BI environment which will make their business agile, adaptable, and efficient. We definitely see focus on strategy as being the key overriding factor for business intelligence now, where before it was very tactical.
The successful approach to self-service reporting is based on developing an information delivery layer that puts data in the hands of end-users. The end-state vision should be such that business users can quickly view the key performance indicators at both the strategic and tactical levels. Balanced scorecards and drill-down capability to the operational level to understand the drivers of business performance are typical deliverables.