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Self-service tools, data visualization software give BI a new look

Self-service business intelligence and data visualization tools can make it easier for business users to analyze BI data. But there's a lot that needs to be done up front to make that happen.

In a report published in July 2014, Forrester Research Inc. analyst Boris Evelson included self-service business intelligence tools and advanced data visualization software as key elements in enabling BI systems to support more agile business operations. Business users need to be able to easily explore BI data and create their own reports, dashboards and visualizations, Evelson wrote in the report. And not just simple charts -- a broad palette of graphical features is required to effectively visualize data sets, he added.

Done right, visualization can change how business managers and other workers "see" data. Gartner Inc. analyst Tad Travis wrote in a December 2014 blog post that going forward, the way data is presented to users "will be as important as the information itself." But first, a lot of work has to take place behind the scenes to build an IT and BI architecture that can deliver the right data to the right users and empower them to take advantage of it. As one IT manager said at the 2015 TDWI Executive Summit in Las Vegas, you won't get very far on self-service BI and data visualization if don't have high-quality data, a well-designed systems infrastructure and consistent processes.

On SearchBusinessAnalytics, you'll find content designed to help readers get their organizations heading in the right direction on self-service and visualization initiatives. For example, we delve deeper into the discussions at the TDWI event, detailing how the BI and data management teams at two large companies built the architectural underpinnings for expanded self-service analytics efforts. In addition, we zero in on the continuing role that IT and BI teams should play in supporting self-service systems. We also look at a shipping company's move to put data on the map -- literally -- as part of a location analytics program. And we catalog tips on what the people involved in the technology evaluation and selection process should look at before buying data visualization software.

Furthermore, consultant William McKnight offers some visual cues; in a webcast, he discusses how to effectively use data visualization techniques and complements it with examples. Meanwhile, in a podcast Q&A, he provides advice on managing successful visualization projects. If your organization is currently moving forward with a deployment of self-service tools for analyzing and visualizing data, hopefully that and the other guidance available here will help you put it on track to accomplish more than just visualizing success.

Craig Stedman is executive editor of SearchBusinessAnalytics. Email him at [email protected], and follow us on Twitter: @BizAnalyticsTT.

Next Steps

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