The reasons for heading towards self-service reporting are almost self-evident. There are constant budget pressures, yet competitive pressures call for increased access to relevant information. IT can be caught in the middle. The pragmatic decision is to shed some of the centralized reporting function housed in IT and enable self-service reporting by business users.
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Years ago, this might have sounded like a radical new way of delivering information, but the trend was set in place with the advent of reporting tools as rudimentary as Excel. While sophisticated report writing still requires specialized skills and database knowledge, now even more sophisticated interactive reporting software, such as InetSoft’s, make it even more realistic to enable more self-service reporting.Now these reporting tools have become more intuitive and easy to work with. Business users, most of the time power users, can build their own reports with relative ease. Not-so-technical users can both customize the reports given to them by the power users and, when provided well-designed interactive reporting interfaces, drill through many reports that previously would have had to have been built individually.
IT responsibilities do not disappear, of course, for self-service reporting. Rather they are focused on tool selection, administration, on delivering quality data on time, and production reporting. The savings are, nonetheless, appreciable.Another benefit IT enjoys: the headaches and lost time due to poorly thought-out business requirements for reports. Even if complex reports need IT development, business users can now prototype them to a greater extent, and certainly understand their data better with greater hands-on experience.
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If there are caveats to self-service reporting, they would include the potential dilution of knowledge resulting from spreading the reporting function across various lines of business, something that is exacerbated by the anthropological tendency for departmental silo-ing. Ironically, that undesirable outcome reminds one of the old days when information and database silos cropped across the enterprise, which itself spawned the business intelligence solutions of today.
So do not forget the value of the single version of the truth. The IT department still has a role to play in publishing common definitions and educating users how to find data, or in other cases constructing the approved virtual data models that work off of the centralized data warehouse.Along these lines, a good self-service reporting solution should be routinely monitored by IT. In larger organizations this might mean creating an organization structure to support these changes.
In summary, self-service reporting is the natural and prudent evolution of information management. The benefits of decreased the time to information and the broadening of information access are key for competitive success. Consider the caveats and manage the project even post deployment, and risks can be mitigated. And always keep in mind the impact of self-service reporting on your information architecture.