Self-Service Business Intelligence—Why Companies Love It

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The Exela Blog

Self-Service Business Intelligence—Why Companies Love It

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by BethAnn Woolcock

Data for the Masses

Business intelligence (BI) is no longer confined to bulky centralized data warehouses owned by IT. As the reliance on data and analytics becomes more prevalent across all industries and business types, the need for greater access among different departments and users has grown exponentially. More and more companies are realizing the benefits of decentralizing big data operations to give individuals more power over how and when they access critical business information. This includes the utilization of past, present and predictive analytical data models to address current business challenges and inform decision making in a timely and efficient manner. Facilitating the transition to self-service BI is the proliferation of software elements that support configurable reporting, interactive “slice-and-dicepivot-table analyses, visualization, and statistical data mining.

While traditional BI models still add value, especially in the case of large enterprises, the need for greater agility is required to keep up with the growing volume of data and sources available. Plus, more access to real-time, data-driven information, has presented businesses with opportunities to pinpoint and address problems across functional areas such as, sales, production, and finance, immediately. Putting the power of data in the hands of the average user can have even greater implications when it comes to future business improvements and competitive advantage.

There is no doubt that businesses depend on data for sound and informed decision-making. To facilitate the proliferation of data among stakeholders and enable on-the-spot business-critical analysis, more companies are investing in BI software and applications. Technologically advanced tools, such as Exela’s web-based, intelligent reporting platform, Athena, provide opportunities for average users, like you and me, to view and manipulate data that, otherwise, might not be readily available. Platforms like this offer analytics and information that is easy to decipher via graphical representations and drill-down features. With the help of self-service BI applications, department heads, or average users can gain valuable insight into all aspects of a business, whether it’s inventory management, production workflow, or SLA tracking. With the right tools, the possibilities are endless.

What Users Get Out of It

Businesses have a lot of options when it comes to the utilization of self-service tools. While some users appreciate the ad hoc reporting features and capabilities, others require more intricate functionality including, the integration of private, local data, and the modification of reports and dashboards. Here is a more in depth look at some of the requirements that businesses have for Self-Service BI.

  • Creation of Ad Hoc reports and Dashboards

When it comes to building and accessing data-driven reports, IT has taken a backseat to more intuitive tools, pre-defined report templates, and dashboard objects. With the advancement of technology, what used to be a near impossible task for the average user is now a common reality. Reports can now be easily created and shared among employees (usually within the same department).

  • Modification of Reports and Dashboards

Not only can employees create their own reports, but, with self-service BI functionality, they have the ability to change the way information is displayed and reported for the analysis of specific data sets. Users have the power to create specific business criterion and manipulate data in order to create meaningful reports that offer new insight into core business processes.

  • Integration of Private, Local Data

Often times, data from external sources, such as excel spreadsheets, or flat files, need to be integrated into existing reports, analyses, or data models. Self-service functions allow for easy integration of local data to expand upon the information delivered by the data warehouse.

  • Modification or creation of data models

Some business analysts or advanced users require a self-sufficient environment to produce or modify data models. These users will adapt their semantic model to a business department’s needs without the reliance on IT. This modeling can take place in a metadata layer, database, or a confined environment. The specific approach is dependent on each business’s independent needs.


The concept of self-service BI has revolutionized the way that businesses use data. Without the reliance on IT, critical information is now readily available to heads-of-departments, as well as the average employee for impactful decision making. Powerful intelligence tools and third party resources have facilitated the translation of complex, albeit essential, analytic applications into meaningful and actionable insight. Users are no longer restricted to a one-size-fits all representation of data. Rather, they have the flexibility to manage and manipulate volumes of information in a way that can be easily understood and leveraged. The masses have spoken. Business-critical data is now free from the clutches of an over-burdened IT department, giving stakeholders more power to influence and improve business outcomes.

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