self-service business intelligence (BI)

This definition is part of our Essential Guide: Guide to telling stories with data: How to share analytics insights

Self-service business intelligence (SSBI) is an approach to data analytics that enables business users to access and work with corporate data even though they do not have a background in statistical analysis, business intelligence (BIor data mining. Allowing end users to make decisions based on their own queries and analyses frees up the organization's business intelligence and information technology (IT) teams from creating the majority of reports and allows those teams to focus on other tasks that will help the organization reach its goals.

Because self-service BI software is used by people who may not be tech-savvy, it is imperative that the user interface (UI) for BI software be intuitive, with a dashboard and navigation that is user friendly. Ideally, training should be provided to help users understand what data is available and how that information can be queried to make data-driven decisions to solve business problems, but once the IT department has set up the data warehouse and data marts that support the business intelligence system, business users should be able to query the data and create personalized reports with very little effort.

While self-service BI encourages users to base decisions upon data instead of intuition, the flexibility it provides can cause unnecessary confusion if there is not a data governance policy in place. Among other things, the policy should define what the key metrics for determining success are, what processes should be followed to create and share reports, what privileges are necessary for accessing confidential data and how data quality, security and privacy will be maintained. 

This was last updated in February 2016

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