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Self-Service Business Intelligence is Big, but is it for Everyone?

By   /  January 5, 2017  /  No Comments

jz_ssbi_010417What intelligence are we seeing lately about the state of Self-Service Business Intelligence (SSBI)?

Let’s start with the fact that the numbers are pointing up. According to a recent report published by Research and Markets, the global Self-Service Business Intelligence market will grow from $3.6 billion in 2016 to $7.3 billion by 2021, at a CAGR of 15.2%.

Sales organizations across industries should wrap up 2016 as having the largest SSBI market share across all business functions, the report notes, citing the need for these professionals to generate insights from internal and external data about the performance of sales people and sales overall. “Self-service BI helps the sales department in resolving these issues even without any help from the IT team or Data Scientists,” it notes.

Given the onslaught of data every company is dealing with, industries ranging from telco to retail and energy to manufacturing increasingly are interested in bringing advanced BI and analytics techniques directly to business users. In fact, the research finds, the healthcare and life sciences verticals should experience the highest CAGR during the forecast period because of a growing need to manage real-time data related to healthcare activities – patient sleep analysis, for example.

For Business Users and IT Alike

Among the top Business Intelligence trends in 2017, according to a Business Application Research Center (BARC) survey of 2,800 BI professionals, SSBI ranks in the top three issues. It’s key to take some of the strain off of IT when it comes to satisfying a steadily growing demand from departmental end users for faster changes and new developments to meet their Business Intelligence needs, the firm says. In that environment, it makes sense to enable business users to build or design their own queries, reports, interfaces or even data models, the researchers explain. “Data discovery and visualization as well as predictive analytics are among the typical functions users want to consume in a self-service mode,” the report notes.

While business users represent one pocket of parties interested in Self-Service Business Intelligence, another important user segment is the IT department itself. A survey of IT pros from real-time IT management vendor ManageEngine – which this past summer unveiled a self-service solution to help enterprise IT staff gain insights from the data generated by its network monitoring, applications monitoring, and customer support tools – shows  that these experts want Self-Service Analytics tools as much as their business counterparts.  Forty-two percent of respondents want to create reports on their own, a win for Self-Service Analytics over traditional reporting – and on-demand, with ad hoc reporting being key for more than one-third so that they can get answers to specific questions and analyze specific data.

Empowering IT users in this respect is a driver for better IT Governance, the company reports.

“Self-Service Business Intelligence tools provide a much greater level of flexibility in this regard and allow them to quickly carry out a wide range of important tasks, including creating personalized reports, acquiring real-time insight on the data they need, and carrying out the necessary action,” writes ManageEngine VP Sridhar Iyenger.

Watch Your Self-Service Step!

There are some cautions to consider when it comes to Self-Service BI. The Research and Markets report points to factors such as high investment costs and lack of proper Data Governance processes as obstacles to even greater market growth, for example. In fact, earlier this year Gartner reported that through 2017, less than 40% of Self-Service Business Intelligence initiatives will be governed sufficiently to prevent inconsistencies that adversely affect the business. (See the recent DATAVERSITY® article on the importance of Data Governance to Self-Service BI success).

BARC takes a similar line, advising that there be an agreed upon Data and Tool Governance framework in place as preparation for provisioning the business user community with Self-Service Business Intelligence. Without it, the potential for IT losing control over data looms over data discovery, visualization, and Predictive Analytics efforts. IT and BI units should align closely, especially with power users, on this front, it explains, pointing out that power users may even compile their own dashboards using layout components from different sources to suit their personal needs.

In the absence of alignment, BARC says, issues may range from causing greater strain on BI organizations and BI Governance as the responsibility for reporting becomes increasingly scattered, to creating challenges for IT departments related to controlling user behavior. That’s not a good thing for the organization that is in charge of operating the business’ software tools, application servers and fulfilling data needs. “Striking the right balance between flexibility and data governance is a crucial element in the success of Self-Service BI projects,” the report states.

Where to Next?

A report on the state of 2017 Analytics adoption, conducted by Impact Analytix for embedded BI vendor Logi Analytics, reveals that over 65 percent of IT respondents to the survey are already providing or have started to provide Self-Service Analytics solutions to their end users. More than 50% already give end users access to Self-Service Analytics without requiring they make a special request to IT for it, and almost as many business users agree they have access to SSBI tools on their own.

That said, the report also posits the idea that these solutions may already have peaked, as it finds that the adoption of Self-Service Business Intelligence tools is, unexpectedly, slightly declining.  Despite the wider availability of these Analytics tools, user adoption is down 20 percent from the past two years, it notes. IT respondents estimate that just over half of their end users actually use the self-service tools they’re provided, and only about 45 percent of end users say they use Self-Service Analytics when needed.

“The systemic challenges of standalone self-service tools – especially the fact that IT has to consistently educate users on them, deploy them, and maintain them – hinder user awareness and adoption of analytics,” the report says.

IT and end users alike agree that top challenges are the costs of maintenance, the difficulties of switching over from usual applications to a separate Analytics tool, and ease-of-use issues. Embedded Analytics, the report concludes, present an alternative that gives end users the power, ease-of-use, and autonomy they want while connecting to IT-controlled data. The survey shows that both IT and business users consider that to be important.

According to the research, usage of stand-alone self service tools will continue to decline and then reach a plateau, while integrating Self-Service Business Intelligence content and capabilities within the business applications and portals that people are already using will become more the norm.

“Most likely, organizations are seeing the value of including analytics in the apps people are using on a daily basis – in effect, delivering analytics when and where users need it to make decisions,” the report states. “This is an exciting revenue opportunity for independent software vendors (ISVs), as organizations will now rely on multiple solutions embedded in various platforms, instead of a single standalone solution.”

About the author

Jennifer Zaino is a New York-based freelance writer specializing in business and technology journalism. She has been an executive editor at leading technology publications, including InformationWeek, where she spearheaded an award-winning news section, and Network Computing, where she helped develop online content strategies including review exclusives and analyst reports. Her freelance credentials include being a regular contributor of original content to The Semantic Web Blog; acting as a contributing writer to RFID Journal; and serving as executive editor at the Smart Architect Smart Enterprise Exchange group. Her work also has appeared in publications and on web sites including EdTech (K-12 and Higher Ed), Ingram Micro Channel Advisor, The CMO Site, and Federal Computer Week.

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