Self-Service Reporting: Changing Consumption Patterns in Business Intelligence

Harry Rose, Managing Director

According to a new report released by Gartner’, revenue in the business intelligence (BI) and analytics market is expected to exceed $16.5 billion this year, representing growth of more than 5% compared to last year, as self-service analytics continues its march to replace IT-led reporting processes. The report cites that growing “accessibility, agility and deeper analytical insight” continue to drive adoption, which is only reinforced as organizations recognize the value and efficiencies of empowering business users to take a more hands-on approach to data and analysis. At the same time, expectations are changing among business users when it comes to their ability to access and consume information.

Historically, reporting development was the responsibility of the IT team or a dedicated business intelligence/reporting unit that would build reports in response to requests from the business. For obvious reasons, this approach has its fair share of drawbacks—chief among those is that it creates bottlenecks. With a relatively small number of developers in the IT team acting as gatekeepers to business intelligence, they can be faced with a number of competing demands for information. This can even result in delays when attempting to access vital information. Sometimes response times are so slow that when the requested reports are eventually delivered, the information is no longer relevant.

The IT-centric approach is also not conducive to discovering new business trends with data. Reports built in this way are typically inflexible; the business user needs to be prescriptive in their report request and often the result is a static report. If the request does not quite meet their needs, the business user is left with the option of trying to make do with the information they have or re-entering the queue to request a new report.

These frustrations often lead to business users circumventing this process entirely, instead cobbling together their own reports with the data they already have on hand. This creates new complications and is often at the root of data governance plans gone awry. This data, for instance, could be outdated; it may not be appropriate for its intended purpose; or, in a worst-case scenario, the data could simply be wrong.

The latest self-service tools, such as Eagle’s packaged reports solution, carry intuitive and flexible dashboards and data visualizations that are easy to use. This empowers business users across the front, middle and back office to address business challenges by consuming and interrogating data. Without the need for a background and training in statistical analysis, BI or data mining, business users become empowered to unearth insights from the right data.

Self-service reporting transforms the business user’s relationship with data, bringing the two closer than ever before. Easy-to-use dashboards and visualization tools help users gain the flexibility and understanding to make decisions based on their own specific queries in their own timeframe, helping enable faster and more efficient decision-making. It also helps increase the potential for making new data discoveries as the business user has the opportunity to explore and roam more freely, following hunches and developing new insights that may have otherwise gone undiscovered. In the increasingly competitive world of investment management, discovering these new insights can be crucial to success, providing a decided edge over the competition.

This democratization of analysis can also lead to benefits across the organization. Marketing and sales teams, for example, could tap into the data to identify potential insights about clients’ behavior and shifting industry trends. Additionally, it frees up the development and IT teams to focus on other tasks and projects that deliver business value, further improving efficiency.

However, there is a data challenge that sits at the heart of self-service reporting — the benefits of self-service cannot be realized through user-friendly tools and dashboards alone. These tools need access to a robust data model with comprehensive data governance, ensuring the data being used is suitable for consumption. A comprehensive data governance framework is critical to guide and define parameters on how data can be used and interpreted. Self-service reporting can only be successfully achieved with a strong data management foundation.

All that said, the potential for self-reporting is exciting, and the advances being made are quickly changing expectations among business users as to how they consume and act upon new information. As their toolset evolves and information becomes even more accessible, the benefits extend from the individual business users to the business itself.

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