I need effective BI and I need it now! But-  central IT clogged up with other priorities, a dearth of data scientists and that eternal problem of managing disparate data sources means delay.

Line of Business Users, frustrated with central IT delays, resorted to using revenue budgets to license BI software.  To take advantage of the self-service BI that puts insight into the hands of the business user.

But we've all been there before.

Silos of data, analysts and business groups creating confusion rather than insight. Is Self-service BI, Analytics and Reporting really the answer?

It can be if all major stakeholders are behind the project.

  • CDO, DBA, Data Architect
  • CTO, CIO, Central IT
  • Data Scientists, Analysts, BI Professionals
  • The complete C-Suite
  • CEO
  • The LOB teams

Self-service can only be effective if it addresses three key issues.

  1. Data
  2. Data Science
  3. Enterprise-wide systems & apps


The fact is you have to be able to access and analyse the right data whichever part of the BI maturity curve you lie on.

  • Internal- structured, semi & unstructured
  • External- structured, semi & unstructured
  • Past, current, predictive
  • Batch, streaming

Line of Business people just cannot manage that nor ensure that only users authorised see and share the outputs.

The CDO and IT team have to be able to exploit tools that offer highest security and use admin standards across the whole spectrum of users from front-line to the boardroom. 

Data Science

Professionals ( BI, Analyst and Data Scientist) must ensure that BI & Analytics are interpreted correctly. Apparent correlations may be true or false and business users tend to want to confirm their own ideas rather than seek the truth. Self-service BI can be a terrible information weapon in the wrong or misguided arms.

Professionals must combine an enterprise-wide strategy with guided self-service BI & Analytics to help combine operational intuition with data-driven and actionable insights. 

Enterprise-wide systems & apps

Lastly, most users in an organisation do not want self-service BI- they want the information they need in the context of the roles and tasks they are involved in daily. Embedded in a wide range of systems from legacy mainframe to newly acquired SaaS apps. 

BI and Analytics that are not embedded in the core applications operational people use hour by hour are a waste of time and money.

To overcome these challenges here are some guidelines.

  1. Seek a BI/Analytics platform rather than a specific app. 
  2. Ask if you can build purpose built BI/Analytics rather than just be able to configure what's in the box (you'll hit a brick wall)
  3. Prove you can embed BI so the analytics appears as an integral part of your working apps
  4. Ensure that you can piggy-back the existing high security & user admin models deployed 
  5. Check the BI/Analytics is suitable for the complete spectrum of users from operations to analysts
  6. Check that the outputs are clearly readable and usable across every device from a smartphone/tablet to a large wallboard
  7. Check that there are the range of APIs to integrate best-practice third party libraries, apps
  8. Ensure you have buy-in across the whole business
  9. Do not believe any vendor that says this is simple. 
  10. Beware of any reference user case that does not show how the customer and partners overcame challenges along the way. 

Who do you chose as your partner(s)?

The traditional mega-vendors like IBM Cognos, SAP Business Objects, HPE, CSC, Oracle, MicroSoft can deliver everything but will tend to be slow, complex and expensive. On the other hand they have the track records to deal with complex Fortune 500 & Global organisations

Those in for the long haul towards machine learning & AI may look at the combination of services and products under umbrellas like IBM's Watson, or similar offerings from HPE et al. 

Enterprise CRM, ERP vendors and ISVs should embed world-class analytics in their own products. If not, demand it!

If they don't, Information Builders, Logi Analytics, BOARD, Tibco and Qlik offer platforms that can be embedded in your enterprise apps.

There are always niche specialists- from the market for mapping and GIS is a growing demand for Location Intelligence in which you'll find Carto .

Time pressure means that sometimes you will ignore the advice above and seek fast to plan and deploy offerings from Sisence, Tableau, Domo, GoodData-  the list grows every week! Particularly if IT does not want to develop BI & Analytics

Just be mindful that as you move on from the first project these "simpler & faster" options become more complex, slower and more expensive.

There is no simple answer of course- every option will involve a mix of joy and heartbreak. Progress and alarming halts. Open information highways and disguised cul-de-sacs that limit options.

Of course, if your enterprise or public organisation does not have clear goals, strategies and tactics in the4 first place do not expect BI, Analytics and Reporting to fill the gap!