E-Handbook:

Self-service analytics tools hand BI power to business users

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Self-service software in driver's seat on BI and analytics

Self-service analytics tools are now driving most new deployments of BI and data visualization software, according to Gartner. And as self-service technology becomes more mainstream, corporate IT and BI teams are increasingly taking the lead on deploying and supporting it for business users, the consulting firm said in its 2018 "Magic Quadrant" report on analytics and BI platforms.

A project at Indiana University is a case in point. In 2015, IU put together a team of data analysts and architects to implement and then operate a BI system with Tableau Software's self-service analytics software. The university uses Denodo Technologies' data virtualization tools to pull together data from various internal systems for analysis and visualization in Tableau, said Dan Young, IU's chief data architect and manager of enterprise business intelligence.

His project team creates curated data sets and designs dashboards and visualizations to give IU officials a more analytical view of academic programs and workforce issues than they could get previously from an existing data warehouse that only tracked basic operational data. "We're trying to get the right information into the hands of high-level people looking to make decisions," Young explained.

But the rise of self-service analytics tools also poses new challenges for organizations. Gartner said data-literate users are running more-sophisticated queries, including predictive analytics ones, which puts self-service systems under pressure on scalability and requires more-complex data models.

Companies also need to guard against inconsistent data in siloed self-service environments -- "the danger that everybody just does their own thing," said Rick Sherman, founder and managing partner of consulting firm Athena IT Solutions. That's another reason for more centralized control, or at least coordination, of self-service deployments, he added.

This handbook examines self-service analytics and BI technologies and how organizations are taking advantage of them.

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