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Self-service BI tools can aid CRM efforts, with some effort

In a podcast, consultant David Loshin explores the potential benefits and challenges of mixing self-service BI tools and customer relationship management processes.

As businesses increasingly adopt self-service business intelligence (BI) tools, one of the uses that can be a good fit for the technology is analyzing data to help boost customer relationship management efforts. But companies can encounter various roadblocks in enabling business users to assume greater technical control of the customer data analysis process, according to consultant and author David Loshin. In a podcast interview with SearchBusinessAnalytics, Loshin offered advice on how to successfully navigate the intersection of self-service BI software and CRM and customer engagement programs.

"One of the main motivators for implementing self-service BI tools," Loshin said, "is the creation of this central bottleneck in the IT department that prevents the ability to deliver information to the right people at the right time." BI and IT teams often take weeks or even months to write queries and build reports for business users, he added. Self-service BI provides a potential solution designed to bypass that bottleneck and give customer service representatives and other users more immediate access to relevant information.

Loshin cautioned, though, that user self-service isn't as simple as it sounds. BI project managers still have to "exercise some level of governance or control" over the data analysis process, he said: "BI managers are walking a tightrope because they want to be able to reduce the amount of demand for their own resources. On the other hand, you don't want to yield too much capability to the users so that they get all confused, or they're sitting there staring at a screen trying to figure out what the next thing is they're going to do."

In addition, self-service BI increases the need for user education and training, Loshin said. And because self-service software doesn't present information in the prepackaged way that many users are accustomed to, he added that training programs must cover not only how to use the new tools but also how to change business processes in call centers, marketing departments and other operations to adjust to the ready availability of up-to-date knowledge about customers. In order to aid that adjustment, he encouraged BI and IT managers to establish a glossary of data and business terminology to prevent users from misinterpreting information.

Overall, Loshin thinks that self-service tools can have a positive impact for business users -- and businesses. A better understanding of customer behavior "can lead to more profitable or less risky business practices," he said.

In the podcast, moderated by SearchBusinessAnalytics Executive Editor Craig Stedman, Loshin further discussed the benefits and challenges of using self-service BI software as part of CRM and customer engagement efforts. Listeners will

  • Get tips on overcoming the hurdles businesses face when starting to use self-service BI tools
  • Learn about the evolving role of end-user training and how to align it with self-service capabilities
  • Gain an understanding of the different types of self-service BI and the potential benefits for various users
  • Hear about the potential business value of incorporating BI processes into a CRM program

Next Steps

Find out why self-service BI deployments involve more than just giving end users new tools

Read about the evolution from static reporting to a self-service BI strategy at Quicken Loans

Get more info on what you need to know before implementing self-service BI tools

This was last published in June 2014

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