The Top 5 Dirty Secrets of Self-Service BI

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We always talk about the benefits of agile and self-service BI, and there are many benefits when comparing self-service BI to traditional BI. However, we like to keep our users completely informed and we have to admit that self-service BI has a few dirty secrets, and there are times when self-service BI doesn’t fit users needs. Keep reading for the top five issues with self-service BI:

  1. Self-service BI is difficult to scale. Self-service BI is typically a great solution for small teams (though these teams may be made up of hundreds of people) and is challenging to scale to the enterprise level. This is because user adoption within BI tends to be low when the BI tool doesn’t have a specific impact and use case for that user.  Just having access to a tool without purpose doesn’t work very well.  Self-service BI works best when the use case and purpose is clearly defined, which becomes increasingly challenging at the enterprise level. Security is also an issue because scaling self-service BI, without the proper data governance in place, can cause huge security gaps with a company’s data. (Thankfully, one of Yurbi’s strengths is its security and auditing capabilities, making security less of a concern for Yurbi customers.)
  2. You must have access to structured data. When you have a BI tool, you still need a data source to which to connect it. These data sources need to be structured and updated in real-time for the self-service BI tool to be the most useful for users, which requires technical staff. When companies try to pull in unstructured data into a self-service BI tool, the tool typically doesn’t perform well.
  3. You must have a semantic or metadata layer. We mentioned above that self-service BI requires structured data, but its requirements do not stop there. Companies must also have a semantic or metadata layer on top of the structured database to help translate the data to the end user. The development of this metadata layer must be conducted by someone within the organization who has a technical skill set and understands the data enough to translate it to end users. Within Yurbi, this metadata layer is called the Yurbi App.
  4. The database sometimes becomes a bottleneck. Sometimes, when a self-service BI tool is opened up to hundreds of people, the database isn’t configured properly and prepared for the traffic. This can create a bottleneck because the database might slow down or crash completely. Some companies address this issue by cloning their databases and creating a reporting repository, so that users query the replica database instead of the working database. Within Yurbi, we address database bottleneck issues with App Shield, which protects the database by limiting the amount of data users can query at certain times or frequencies.
  5. Disparate reports can lead to information overload. A lot of companies we work with jump into BI because they have too much disparate, unactionable data. These companies will then bring in a BI tool to centralize their data, but depending upon how the company sets up the BI solution they will end up with the same issues. This is because the company often opens up the tool to a ton of users and the users begin creating duplicate reports. This ultimately kills user adoption because there are duplicate reports in the report repository or library, and no one knows which reports are good, and which reports are bad or outdated. Within Yurbi, we address the information overload issue by separating libraries into personal and public. The personal libraries allow users to store their own reports, and the public library sets the report standards and has security features that limit who can edit its contents. Yurbi’s auditing capabilities also help companies manage reports by cleaning up saved reports based upon how frequently they are being used.

The Bottom Line

Though there are a few downfalls and things that companies must plan for in order to implement a self-service BI tool successfully, we believe that the benefits outweigh the negatives. Any BI solution should be targeted to a use case and with successful self-service BI implementation can be a profitability game changer for companies.

Do you want to know if self-service BI is right for your organization? Contact us or request a demo to let us help you find out!

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