One of the current trends in business intelligence (especially within the current challenging macroeconomic environment) is the increasing demand for self-service reporting. Business analysts are frequently asked to perform ad hoc analysis and create standardized reports while being expected to complete that work very quickly. By using reporting tools like Power BI and Looker, technology departments can create and maintain datasets that enable business users to fulfill these requests effectively and efficiently.
Verstand AI’s business intelligence team works with firms of all sizes, and regardless of whether the firm is a fast-growing startup or multi-billion-dollar firm. One thing is clear: given today’s macroeconomic conditions, firms need to constantly analyze their strategies and operations in order to pivot when necessary. To accomplish this goal, self-service reporting is vital and business leaders must scale to accommodate the entire organization. As a result of Verstand’s work in this space, we’ve identified four key areas where companies see significant benefits by utilizing self-service reporting tools.
1. Avoid Chaos: Enterprise-Wide Definitions
Without self-service datasets, individual contributors write their own queries or modify others’ queries to obtain data, which most likely results in different definitions being used in reports—a manageable problem within a company of 5, but chaotic in one over 100. So, by having the technology team create and maintain self-service datasets, the company can be assured that calculations are consistent across reports. Requirements gathering sessions for these self-service datasets also open the door to conversations where different departments may have different calculations or definitions of the same metrics.
In our requirements gathering sessions with customers, Verstand has been able to identify legacy metrics that are no longer used, calculations that need to incorporate new business logic, as well as departments defining metrics differently. We were able to work with businesses to update metrics and calculations as needed and ensure that everyone accessing the self-service dataset was using the correct calculation and consistently generating business decision shaping reports.
2. Nail Then Scale: Efficiency Gained and Costs Saved
Unless the business users are fluent in SQL, business user queries can often be inefficient and costly. One only needs to look at corporate America’s cloud computing expenses to validate this point. For example, users may not know that filtering on a partitioned field is required or recommended to save costs. They may spend hours of their time re-running and debugging their query. It’s also possible that they miss key business logic needed for the output to be accurate. Self-service datasets created by the technology team will be created so that they are as efficient as possible and consider all of the proper business logic.
The costs saved related to building reports is noticeable—up to 30% lower within the first three months. Instead of needing the technology team to develop every report, the business users can build their own reports and share with their team. This frees up the technology team to develop more enterprise-wide reporting and work on projects that will have a higher return-on-investment for the company.
3. Make Your Staff’s Job Easier: Ease of Analyzing Data
Leveraging tools like Looker and Power BI makes it easy for business users to pull the information they need quickly. They don’t need to write a new query, find a query they used in the past, or modify a query they received from a colleague. By using a self-service dataset, the business user can quickly pull the data they need and are even able to save it for future use. Net/Net: your staff is able to free up time and move on to other pressing work.
4. Unlock Creativity: Empowered Employees
When business users use self-service datasets developed by the technology team, they’re confident that the data they’re analyzing is accurate and consistent with the rest of the business. They also have all the data they need at their fingertips, allowing them to answer any ad hoc questions that come their way and develop standardized reporting for questions they answer on a regular basis. They don’t need to reach out to another team to help with their analysis, they have the power to do it themselves—a power that leads to much more effective critical thinking and benefit to the business.
How It’s Done
Although the case for using self-service reporting is extremely compelling, there are some points to consider.
Business users will need to be trained on how to use the self-service datasets, utilize the tool, and best practices in terms of analyzing and visualizing data. However, this training will likely be easier and better results compared to training business users on writing SQL queries, transforming data, and modeling data, in addition to analyzing and visualizing data.
Fortunately for the firm, there is a choice on how to conduct training. At Verstand, we’ve facilitated training for business intelligence tools and self-service datasets via live and recorded trainings—enabling our customer’s business users to confidently create their own reporting.
Depending on your reporting tool, you may need to upgrade your business user licenses so that they’re able to create and share content. For example, a Viewer license in Looker wouldn’t allow the business user to create their own analysis and share it with others. Factor in the cost of these licenses vs. the projected reduction in costs—both in terms of Cloud transaction and human labor. Verstand practitioners have consistently seen a positive ROI.
Enabling business users to create their own reports does not take away the need for enterprise reporting. Business needs and data governance will always require some reports available at a company or department level and those need to be created by the technology team. Rather than creating reports that impact a small amount of people within one department, the technology team can create reporting that benefits the larger group and make an enterprise impact within the company.
The benefits of self-service reporting greatly outweigh the additional considerations. Spending time creating datasets to support self-service reporting and training the business users on the reporting tool will benefit reporting across the organization. Consider what you must, but plan on making it happen this year. Your company’s continued survival may count on it.
For more information on this topic or to discuss how Verstand can help you create a self-service reporting platform at your company, contact us at email@example.com.