The Truth about Self-Service BI

At its best, self-service can be a major boon to efficiency and productivity. But, implemented poorly, self-service can be frustrating, costly and even risky. Consider, for example, how easily we now manage and pay bills online. This is self-service at its best. On the other hand, think about your worst experience with an automated call center asking you to find your way by pushing numbers, holding and entering account numbers. How long do you wait before dialing 0 to find a human? And, then, how do you feel about switching providers?

When self-service business intelligence fails, business users feel the same frustration. Some will call the IT department for help, others will simply write off business intelligence as useless. The truth about self-service business intelligence is that providing users with a clear, simple path to information demands a foundation that masks the complexity of information systems and provides a clear path to relevant and trusted information.

Some keys to self-service business intelligence include:

  • Guided analytics to proactively alert users and connect users with pathways to additional information and insight
  • Common information model to provides business users with a logical view of metrics, hierarchies, and calculations expressed as understandable concepts
  • Browser based dashboards to give flexible access to information filtered and personalized for their identity, function, or role based on predefined security rules

I recently had the opportunity to interview the BI director of an multi-national mining company that users both Oracle e-business suite and Oracle business intelligence for this webinar , Streamline your BI with Oracle 11g. This customer epitomizes the best practices in self-service BI.  He is currently delivering self-service BI to 4,000 business users. On average, his business users generate 40,000 report requests per month. At peak, they handle 80,000 report requests from business users with little or no intervention from the IT department.  And, it's making a big difference. This customer has already identified $52 Million savings through better visibility into inventory.

Self-service BI is a reality at many companies today. But, it is no silver bullet. Self-service BI is a possibility when organizations make the strategic investment in building a scalable and robust foundation and provide business users with training, support the flexibility they need to use information to make the best business decisions.

The truth is, if it looks easy, it wasn't. That's a job well done.

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