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Self-Service BI – An unexplored treasure

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Many organizations across the globe are on a transformational journey to embark and fulfil the ambition of becoming an Insights Driven Enterprise. But, as a matter of fact, most of them are still using the gut instincts and traditional mindsets for making their business decisions. What is the consequence of this?

To achieve the Insights driven goal they have to embrace the latest BI trends by improving the quality of their data and also, create an ecosystem which will empower their employees to create actionable insights which are relevant for their role(s) with zero dependency on the IT department. Currently, most of the organizations are using traditional BI tools and technologies which are not capable of showing the data insights from the lowest level possible.

Characteristics of traditional BI

  • Data Reachability: Most of the departments within an organization have their own data and specific requirements. The present situation is that the data lies with the data analysts and other technical people, and business stakeholders are getting their reports made from them. People who are actual users of the data do not have direct access to the data.
  • Difficulty in working on High Data Volumes: Most of the traditional tools are incapable of dealing with the high volumes of data and as a result business stakeholders have to take small snapshots and base their decisions and insights on it. The business insights from the limited data may not be fully aligned with the outcome and expectations of the business.
  • Difficulty in drilling and fetching deeper insights: Modern reporting tools like Power BI link data from various data sources and give features to drill more insights at a granular level. For eg. In the banking domain, if we take the case of Anti Money Laundering (AML) , we cannot only see the total number of cases but also which case is tagged to which employee and generated by which customer. This 360 degree view is generated by merging various data sources. Traditional BI tools fail to provide the drill down functionality to granular level.

Self-Service BI – A road to success

Self Service Business Intelligence provides users flexibility to access and explore the data sets without having technical knowledge of BI or Analytics. It is very useful for all the departments within an organization. Think of Operations, Finance, Marketing, and HR etc. in making their strategic decisions. These decisions would be based on facts supported by data instead of gut feeling and instincts.

Self-Service BI creates a cultural change in the organization where each employee is empowered to embark his or her own data journey. The data lies in the hands of every employee and they can create their own reports and insights which will be too customized and personal for them.

The journey to successful Self-Service BI Ecosystem

Self-Service BI ecosystem is made up of various components like information factory (where all the data resides), Data Governance (managing scope of the datasets), Reporting (developing insights) and empowering employees. Below are the steps to create this ecosystem:

  • Creation of Information Factory: There are different kinds of data residing in different repositories but they should be saved in an information factory in order to maintain it and can bring the combined insights out of it. Creating an information factory could be the first step in the direction of Self-Service BI. Microsoft has various cloud data storage solutions like Azure Storage BLOB & Azure Data Lake Store as a file storage and Azure Synapse Analytics to bring enterprise data warehousing, big data analytics together with data integration. These solutions can be easily leveraged to form the Information Factory.
  • Data Governance: Every department has different data scopes which can be managed by using the modern reporting tools. For eg. In Power BI Service, we can create different data sets and manage the scope by creating various workspaces by defining user roles. Each employee will have the data within their reach.
  • Reporting: Reports and Dashboards are the outcomes of Self-Service BI. In the initial setup, some reports had to be created in order to set the standard & quality. Every department can create their own reports following those guidelines and standards. The business will be the actual owner of the data and reporting; the IT Data team will support in ensuring the quality and updating the data. Modern reporting tool, like Power BI, are very easy to learn and work with.
  • Training: An organization can’t achieve Self-Service BI goals without training its employees. There are many organizations which are Microsoft clients and getting Power BI in the bundle of Microsoft packages. In that case, they have to provide adequate training in Power BI to all the employees so that they can create Power BI reports without any external dependency.


In the modern business world, insights driven strategic decisions give the best fruitful outcomes where agility, employee empowerment, innovation and a culture of trust plays a major role. Self-service BI has the potential to fulfil this goal. It is the time for every organization to embark on the business intelligence journey and take it to the next level where everyone in the organization will be self-reliant and independent in making decisions, extracting desired information, developing and sharing their insights.

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