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The Risks and Benefits of BI Self-Service

by Dr. Berg

October 10, 2011

Many are starting to use BI self-service and in this blog I look at the benefits and risks of deployment based on the concept of BI-self-service in the business with information consumers as the majority of users. The idea hehind this 'revolution" is that line-of-business managers need to make quicker decisions based without having to waiting for reports developed by IT.

By Dr. Berg

The driving forces behind the next generation of BI Self-service is threefold. First, decision makers now require access to their analytical solutions in a much more dynamic manner.

Second, BI tools have matured significantly in the last decade and become much easier to use and third, managers, controllers and analysts in the central business organization have higher skills than before and are capable of learning basic report creation, filtering and navigation without IT involvement.

So for now. IT owns the data warehouse and the business is wrestling with how to take over BI, reporting and analytics.

Benefits of BI Self-Service

Research shows that companies leading their markets have a comprehensive strategy to develop their non-technical Line of business managers into analytically decision makers, spread Business Intelligence (BI) capability to more organizational functions, and drive significant internal and external business efficiencies as a result (“Self-Service BI”, Michael Lock, 2010).

Key benefits of BI self- service include:

  • Higher adoption rate of BI: 67% organizational adoption rate of BI tools, compared with 21% for others
  • Lower support costs: 214 BI users support ed per Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) dedicated to BI, compared with 134 users for others
  • More used by successful industry leaders: 41% of users in best-of-breed manufacturing companies have some sort of self-service access to BI, compared with 19% for others.

Two main factors are compelling companies to generate a self-service environment for BI. First, many companies are experiencing a growing need to create open lines of communication and visibility between corporate management and specific business units.

The idea is that line of business managers have the firsthand experience and understanding of what drives the business. Therefore companies are looking to leverage BI as means of creating visibility into functional business drivers and communicate them to the strategic level much faster.

Secondly, many manufacturing business units are inundated with raw data about their performance and need simple tools to access this data in a more flexible manner (Abeerdeen, 2010).

BI Self-Service Risk 1: Too Large Reliance on Self-Service

An issue with BI self-service is that organizations often give users too much responsibility for generating the information and reports they need to do their jobs.

In reality, most users don’t want this responsibility, and it’s not part of their job descriptions. It takes too much time, and users often make mistakes and get frustrated.  If they do get training, users often forget how to use the tool by the time they need to create a report. Consequently, they either stop using the tool or call IT to create the report for them (W. Eckerson, tdwi, 2007).

Three Recommendations to Overcome Risk #1

1. To avoid this, you should strictly segment the super users from the consumers and assure that the super user community really has the skills and the inclination to use the BI tools.

 We typically find no more than 10-20% super users and at least 75% consumers. Using these ‘benchmark’ numbers, it indicates that the current user mapping of information consumers may be under counted in many organizations. A secondary review of each user should be taken during the training development for a very accurate count of each user group.

 2. You should also treat training an on-going activity outside the project. This includes periodic training class offerings (i.e. fall and spring) for super users after the project is completed.

 With an employee turnover ratio of 12% annually, we would expect that 60 (of a user community of 500)  would need training annually. In addition, refresher courses could be periodically offered to the existing super user  and designer community.

 3. You should also use a BI on-line Enterprise Learning Management System (LMS), such as RWD/Ancile’s Ulearn. This training system should be easy navigation to on-line demos, training material, recorded step-by-step task examples (mini-movies) as well as formal documentation of procedures, training schedules and contact information.  

In addition all on-line BI training classes should be included and accessed from such an enterprise LMS repository . And you should have links to the training is placed on the web portal and any  Xcelsius dashboard templates for easy reminders that help and training is available.

Other Self-Service Risks

While I am a strong beliver in BI Self-service there are many risks to overcome before you are successful. In the next blogs we will look at the other top-5 issues and how you can overcome these. This include:< /p>

  • BI Self-Service Risk 2: Lack of Consistency of Calculations on Reports
  • BI Self-Service Risk 3: Proliferation of a High Number of Reports & Dashboards
  • BI Self-Service Risk 4: No Centralized BI Report Center
  • BI Self-Service Risk 5: Security
  • BI Self-Service Risk 6: Power shift in Organization


Dr. Berg

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