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Self-service BI part 4

This is part 4 of a 6-part series on self-service BI. The series will address primary dimensions of self-service BI:

IT can truly be the breaker of chains for self-service BI. Yeah, that’s right.

  • Free the users from the unending redundancy of data preparation.

  • Provide the data and systems sustenance that self-service BI needs to satisfy decision-making

Here are some steps to take to start breaking those data chains.

  • Know your users and required functionality.

  • Identify special requirements beyond standard content.

  • Choose BI tools that serve multiple use cases.

  • Converge administrative features onto a single platform.

  • BI on BI is key for self-service success.

Some customers I have talked to say that they still need at least a year of runway to plan system updates and upgrades. As the business requests new features, new charts, new data sources, and more, this lack of agility will increasingly not be tolerated. Instead, IT should function as an agency by offering services to support self-service BI:

  • Innovation Services (design thinking, digital disruption, live enterprise, etc.)

  • Training + best-practices (as self-service expands, automate some best practices)

  • Data Bureau (an enterprise store for internal, external, structured, unstructured, and curated enterprise data)

  • Tools Bureau (tools that satisfy a breadth of use cases for your wide breadth of users)

  • Sandbox Environments (a governed playground of data and technology that gives business the chance to ask and answer new questions in new ways)

  • Marketing and Community Building (for every $10, spend $8 implementing the project and $2 spreading the word about the impact)

  • Support for BI Collaboration (comments and workflow across BI tools and user groups)

  • Analytics on Analytics (how is the user base expanding? What is the license usage? Any impact to productive systems?)

Now, the chains will be different for every organization; however, you need to start by agreeing on responsibilities. The below table should get you started on some key questions to clarify.

Tasks Priority Author Consumer
Evaluate business requirements
Establish priorities for features / technology
Ensure the right data is promoted to enterprise data
Establish search and naming / storage conventions
Create ad-hoc calculations
Ensure data quality
Create standard color schemes or themes
Create dashboards
Ensure good response time for data and documents
Schedule documents at the right times
Check user security privileges and ensure they are being followed
Secure the reporting environment from breaches


For example, ad-hoc calculations. Where should those be happening? In the productive systems? Master data systems? Enterprise data warehouse? Semantic layer? Within individual reports? Undoubtedly, the answer will vary depending on the type of calculation, but you do still need to write it down. Yes, Breaker of Chains, unsexy documentation work will be an immense help to you.

Do you have a clear set of responsibilities for new self-service BI actions? Do you know where the Information Governance team assumes management of the data?

In the next section, we’ll talk about the importance of a data strategy that can flexibly support self-service BI.