Modern BI:
Who is really served by self-service?

Kseniia Armashula
Marketing Lead
Gennadii Armashula
The concept of self-service BI has existed for many years now, but has it really changed the way companies work? The average BI adoption rate is still under 30% and the growth is extremely slow. The reason for that lies in the difference between power users and casual users of analytics and the lack of the right approach to these groups. What companies need to do is understand what kind of self-service is really needed for their business users and tune their approach to cover their needs efficiently.
Let us start with a story from the times when the concept of self-service was not even born yet - just conceived.
Many years ago, back in 2001, I sold my first batch of Business Objects licenses (pre-SAP). The whole idea sounded revolutionary. IT or BI would prebuild some things in Business Objects and the users would be on cloud nine being able to build reports by themselves. So easy - any business would love the idea! We believed it badly and used the land and expand strategy - started with a small batch of licences and expected to increase it up to thousands in a year or two. Looked promising enough. We would move from client to client implementing these solutions in a few months and then expanding and supporting them for years…
Accton CEO
You might have already predicted the end of the story - it didn't happen. Nor with this particular client nor with many many others.

Surprisingly (or not?), business users were not excited about dealing with data. They didn't want to build reports by themselves. They didn't want to use perfectly built OLAPs. They didn't want to take responsibility for the data or calculations. They only wanted to do their job and let IT/BI depts provide all numbers/reports/analytics needed to make their decisions.

A fair request? Maybe. Consumerist? 100%.
So why? Why business was (or we'd rather say "is") so desperately trying to elude this necessity of working with data and building reports by themselves?

The first reason would be the one that professionals in the field mention most often - Technology. Certainly, there's no comparison between old-fashioned barely understandable heavy programms and the modern tools. Power BI, Looker, Tableau, Qlik and all the other platforms have introduced a new way of doing analytics. Even if the core concept behind them remains the same, what matters here is simplicity. And modern self-service tools have opened the doors to understanding data and analytics for millions of users worldwide, giving them the right to run their own queries, generate reports and so on and so force (see the picture below).
But now as self-service BI has been on the market for years, has anything really changed for users? Let's take a look at the facts:

A recent study by Wiisdom Research has shown that the average level of BI adoption in companies remains low - only 26% of decision-makers use analytics in their daily work. Other studies show similar stats with the number hovering from 20 to 30 per cent.

Not a lot, right?
However inspiring the prospects of self-service are, we can see that "casual" users still don't want to be data experts and create their own reports. They don't want to waste hours on running queries and then analysing and wading through the results.

Yes, there is a determined number of employees, satisfied by the existing "self-service mode" – they are analysts, advanced or "power" users, BI analysts – all those people, whose main role is to use information and generate reports. But how many such employees a company has? 20-30%, they say.

The other 70-80% are information consumers, the end-users of analytics. Unlike a business analyst, whose primary job is to perform analysis on data, a casual user like a shop manager, for example, wants to focus on their main duties of managing staff and suppliers, referring to a report only when a certain decision has to be made.
> Transform our BI dept into a fabric and stamp hundreds of reports for every user?

Costly and chaotic.

> Launch an umbrella data literacy program to move all information consumers to the cohort of power users?

Great, but time-consuming.

Or shall we probably understand what kind of self-service is really needed for business users and tune our approach a little to cover business users needs efficiently?
Well, we've humbly made an attempt to structure the best scenario for you - the second part of this article to be published soon. Meanwhile, you are welcome to share your thoughts and experience in the comments section.

FEBRUARY, 3 / 2022
Written by: Kseniia Armashula
contributor: Gennadii Armashula
Editor: Anna Ovchynnikova
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