In our first article in the two-article series, entitled ‘Guarantee BI Success: Why Self-Serve BI Initiatives Fail’, we talked about the various factors that can dictate the success or failure of a self-serve business intelligence solution implementation. Factors like poor User Adoption, Data Access, Features and Benefits, Self-Serve Analytical Capability, Data Sharing and Reporting, Cost vs. Benefit, and Data Discovery issues must be considered in order to ensure the success of your self-serve business intelligence initiative.
In this article, we will consider the various actions and tasks an organization should undertake to assure the success of BI tools, user adoption and comprehensive business benefits. Do it right the first time, and you will save time and resources and avoid budget overruns. You will also ensure that you do not lose the trust of business users, IT staff and executives. Do it right the first time and gain a competitive advantage over the competition!
If your organization is truly invested in the idea of data democratization and self-serve business intelligence, the project team must go beyond vendor selection and project timing to engage in a detailed review of requirements. From technical issues like infrastructure and network and hardware requirements to user skills, mobile device requirements, device-specific performance constraints, and data governance, data access and data structure, every aspect of scalability, performance, usability, flexibility and data and information privacy and protection is important. As with ANY software implementation, it is important to take the time to get a comprehensive picture of your needs. While you are at it, be sure to consider the aspect of the unknown. You may not be able to anticipate growth in your user volume, the number of locations you want to support or the types or sizes of the devices you need to support. So, be sure to include a requirement for future growth.
Consider advanced analytical requirements like Plug n’ Play Predictive Analysis, Self-Serve Data Preparation and Smart Data Visualization. You may not think you need these right now, but trust me, you do! The more sophisticated the features, the more leverage your business users and analysts can apply. When your organization can dive deep into data and spot trends and patterns, your team will gain valuable insight into the market, the competition and buying behaviors.
Data Source and Data Structural Review
Review ALL data sources, data warehouses, ERP, HR, CRM, best-of-breed, legacy systems, cloud storage and spreadsheet data sources and make a determination as to what data you will integrate and include and whether you want to ‘watermark’ or label selected data in an IT curated environment to allow business users to easily determine what data is ‘certified’. Remember that a self-serve data preparation and BI initiative is designed to democratize data and provide access to business users. Once you open up your data to users, you will want to ensure appropriate access at appropriate levels and identify data to be included in reports so as to clarify data context and ensure confident decisions. Look at unstructured and structured data and decide how you will handle the compilation and management of this data within the business intelligence environment. When you review vendor capabilities, look carefully at their support, scalability, integration capacity and out-of-the box configuration to determine how well the solution meets user and organizational requirements. All Self-Serve Business Intelligence solutions are NOT created equal when it comes to the accommodation of multiple data sources and integrated reporting capabilities.
Find out how your business users are currently analyzing information. Do they ask for IT or analyst assistance in creating reports? If so, the reports they receive probably don’t provide the most current, complete data. Do they use Excel? If so, can you replace their favorite tools with an easy-to-use business intelligence solution that satisfies their need for easy report compilation and sharing and, in the process, add sophisticated tools and algorithms that will go beyond their current expectations? Select a tool that allows for easy sharing and collaboration and find out what kinds of data your users want to see, how they want to see it, what kinds of mobile devices they will want to use to access the data and how they wish to personalize alerts, reports and sharing. Assess user skills and select a vendor that can accommodate all user skills without a lot of training. If you want to guarantee user adoption, you must look for features and benefits that will delight your business users and help you to optimize your IT and analyst resources. This will make your implementation cost-effective and ensure additional productivity.
It may seem obvious to say that you must involve IT, but it bears repeating. The IT team will provide crucial information on your existing data sources and environment and on data governance and data access concerns. They will require a business intelligence solution that allows for easy maintenance, monitoring and management of user access and data integration. They will also want assurances related to scalability, performance and the impact on the IT environment. There is another reason to involve the IT team. You will want to gather information on how a high-performance, dependable self-serve BI tool will help the IT team by optimizing their time and allowing them to focus on other core activities. If the IT team does not have to spend a lot of time satisfying unique report requirements and performing ETL and DWH queries, that time can be spent elsewhere and that productivity should be reflected in the self-serve BI benefits you present to your management team.
If you have an individual analyst or a team of analysts, you will want to involve them as well. Just as you did with the IT team, you can poll the analyst team to find out their concerns and solicit information regarding the optimization of their time and how they can leverage the self-serve BI environment to make better use of their time and to decrease the number of business user inquiries they must satisfy. Double check with this team to find out which data sources and repositories they use, and gain a better understanding of the number and type of ETL and DWH queries they field.
Budget and Timing Factors
When an enterprise decides to pursue a self-serve BI initiative, they usually want to complete the project quickly so that they can leverage the tools for competitive advantage, empower users, and hold them accountable AND improve their bottom line with clear, concise decisions and analysis. But, it all comes down to budget and timing. When selecting a vendor, you must consider the work, customization, out-of-the-box capability, training and other implementation, configuration and licensing factors involved in a given implementation. What will it cost in time and money if you have to migrate or upgrade? Will it take weeks, months or years to complete the implementation?
So, you’ve taken all the steps you need to assure the success of your self-serve data preparation and data discovery tool. Your business intelligence tool is going to help you make history. But, just what benefits can you really expect? Well, if you selected the right tool, you are in for a great surprise. Features that allow business users to see patterns and find unique ‘nuggets’ of information will allow your organization to apply domain and industry knowledge and skill and see data in a way that is meaningful to find the answer that can change your business world!
- Smart data visualization bridges the gap between the ‘usual’ business intelligence (BI) and takes your business users all the way to advanced analytics, without the need for expert assistance from IT or analysts.
- Self-serve BI tools allow for consistency, data sharing and collaboration and assure that everyone is on the same page. When business users can discuss and interpret data in a dependable environment, they will have confidence in the clarity and accuracy of the data. Everyone is using the same tool in the same, uniform environment so there is no risk of confusion.
- The IT team will have the tools they need to assure appropriate data governance and user management and to allow for easy, high-performance data access in a mobile environment.
- Users can access sophisticated BI tools without a lot of training. Drag and drop reporting and personalized reporting and alerts will make those users more productive and happier!
These are just a few of the benefits you will reap from your self-serve business intelligence initiative. If you take the time to do it the right way, there is no limit to what you can achieve, and your users, managers, analysts and IT team will be happier and more productive!
About Kartik Patel
Kartik Patel is the founder and CEO of Elegant MicroWeb. He originated the ElegantJ BI flagship business intelligence software product, which is a self-serve, mobile BI tool designed to support data democratization and transform business users into Citizen Data Scientists. The ElegantJ BI Advanced Data Discovery, Smarten approach to BI tools, includes Plug n’ Play Predictive Analysis, Self-Serve Data Preparation and Smart Data Visualization. In 2016, ElegantJ BI was listed as Representative Vendor in the ‘Gartner Market Guide for Enterprise-Reporting-Based Platforms’, and noted in the ‘Gartner Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence and Analytics Platforms.’
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