What is self-service BI and what can it do for you?

This blog is an extract from our free eBook: ‘Superfluid’s definitive guide to Power BI and how you can get started’. You can download a free copy of it here.

Self-service BI is about enabling an individual to find an answer to a question about their organisation by providing them with a technology that’s capable of finding the solution by examining an organisation’s data.

At its most basic, this might simply be somebody crunching some numbers in Excel, however, the purpose of a fully-formed BI solution is to empower people to take full advantage of all of an organisation’s data. Even simple questions might have multiple variables that need to be considered before providing a truly accurate answer, meaning that without a suitable platform in place to help, a significant investment of time and resources would be required to solve it.

The goal of ‘Self-service BI’, therefore, is to present relevant information in a simple, consumable way via a single well-defined source of truth; and there are many advantages to taking this more sophisticated approach for an organisation:

Consistency of metric measurement and language is a major benefit of self-service BI

Would you count annual leave in your average daily sales KPI metric? The question of whether or not we do is important, but it’s not as significant as whether everyone else does it the same way. If I’m subtracting my annual leave from the available days to produce and average daily sales figure, but my boss or colleagues in Wagga Wagga aren’t, there’s a problem!

This effect is exacerbated across time and multiplied for multiple measures across the organisation – if we have been inconsistently measuring a key metric, then we can’t trust our trend line or the other measures that feed into it.

Reduce report confusion

Another benefit of self-service BI is to reduce the clutter of redundant variants of reports. When questions can be asked in a dynamic way, there is no need to worry about which of the many possible reports is going to produce the ‘correct’ outcome.

Reducing time and effort to produce reporting is a key driver behind self-service BI

While knowledge and insights can be invaluable, the time taken to discover them is an overhead that can limit the effectiveness of what’s found. This is especially true when the questions become iterative, such as when you have follow-on questions: Is Trixie the only one who sold this type of Widget? Was the sale driven by a campaign? Do we run this campaign in other regions? What do we have left in stock? What is our margin on components? Can we discount?

This free rolling Q&A style interrogation of data is where manual reporting processes breakdown and start to become too expensive.

A good BI solution aggregates organisation-wide data

This enables a reporter to see as much context as necessary to identify cause and effect. If you can tie-back customer satisfaction measure right back to component suppliers with the click of a mouse, then you’ve a powerful tool to affect positive change.

Responsiveness is key

OnDemand, rich, and full information; Self-service BI tools allow its users to adapt quickly and always be on top of what is happening and how best to respond, in the moment. The bottom-line is that it will empower your organisations key resources.

Error reduction

Manual processing always carries a risk of introduced errors. The more linked formulas, VLookups, connected workbooks etc. that you need in order to produce a number, the more likely it becomes that it may contain an error. This risk is mitigated significantly by eliminating the need to over-handle data manually, which is precisely what Self-service Bi aims to do.

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The Superfluid team specialises in helping Australian organisations gain a true competitive advantage through the intelligent use of software and Cloud applications. If you want a fresh perspective on how you can take your organisation to the next level, get in touch - we're here to help.