Key steps to success with self-service analytics

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As data—and its applications—grow exponentially, the appeal of self-service analytics can grow with it.

Coursing through your business’ veins like life blood, data holds answers to a myriad of questions that span the organization, from marketing to operations to finance. But if you’re anything like your peers, you can struggle to keep pace with the business intelligence requests every stakeholder seems to be making.

Of course marketing and sales want in on the business intelligence riches, as does your CFO, your CEO and even your recruiting organization. But your team—and you—can only do so much in a day.

All of this can help explain why self-service analytics solutions are gaining in appeal: they provide data consumers the ability to analyze data, uncover insights and optimize, all on their own.

We know self-service solutions are all but ubiquitous, with Gartner’s Technology Insight for Modern Analytics and Business Intelligence Platforms finding 80 percent of survey respondents were either introducing or significantly increasing self-service analysis.

For all its advantages, a self-service solution ultimately means giving power to the (business) people, and with that come the expected challenges and growing pains between the IT department and business stakeholders.

So how do you tame the exciting, chaotic frontier that is self-service analytics? A comprehensive business intelligence management strategy is key to a successful self-service endeavor.

Centers of Excellence are Indeed, Excellent

For starters, create your own business intelligence Center of Excellence (COE). Your business units are taking on more analytical tasks to answer growing business questions faster than before, but this also means you are at risk for creating a reporting wild west. Establishing a COE will organize your self-service efforts by providing jump start resources and development standards that will enable your IT power user, analyst or new business consumer.

This is designed to work for a small team and scale as demand increases and your enterprise fosters more business analysts. After implementing a COE, you will promote reporting consistency and coordination for cross-functional initiatives in a shorter timeframe.

Community of Practice Creates Competence

Gartner predicts that by 2020 the number of data and analytics experts in business units will grow three times the rate of those in IT units. With that in mind, isn’t creating a culture that values data absolute imperative?

Creating a community of practice (COP) is not as simple as ‘training’ often sounds. Like Agile methods can quickly turn ‘tragile’ or ‘fragile’ if the team isn’t bought into the approach, self-service will fail if there isn’t a data driven culture that champions best practices.

A COP uses training to first promote consumption for the business, and second build SMEs who will champion best practices for future builds. All areas of the enterprise are involved in creating this community: technical SMEs, novice developers and business consumers all interact during technical and tool agnostic sessions.

To further growth and development across varying BI maturity, smaller break-out sessions are used to connect business units with similar use cases or audiences, so they can work together on their BI solutions. By creating a community of practice, you are fostering a culture that understands BI best practices and is encouraged to hone and develop new skills.

Analytics Governance is the Sheriff in Town

Self-service governance differs from past IT governance plans; today we adopt a simple governance model that can handle emerging data sets and the fluidity of today’s data landscape. The goal of the sheriff is to set expectations and gain buy-in, not simply rule based on authority.

If self-service champions and IT together create and govern self-service environments, teams are more likely to engage and invest. That engagement establishes visibility into the repeatable process, increases business consumer satisfaction, increases adoption of outputs as they are trusted and quantifies the value of your data assets.

Self Service Equipped to Succeed

Ultimately good strategy and preparation go a long way to guarantee a healthy relationship with business consumers and developers and a successful implementation of self-service analytics. With an established center of excellence, a community that encourages ongoing development and clear data governance, your organization can empower stakeholders to take full advantage of the data you put at their fingertips.

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