Business users neglect deep data analytics in favour of limited self-service tools

New research has highlighted a need for speed in the area of big data, with business users ditching central analytics programmes in favour of self-service tools that deliver insight quickly but on a limited scale.

Big data vendors are racing to adapt their overly complex stacks to capture the increasing demand for easy-to-use, self-service tools that push analytics capabilities directly to the desktops of business users.

This reflects a growing trend towards the decriminalisation of shadow IT by deserting the traditional idea of central IT controlling everything – in favour of tools that enable quick results.

However, self-service solutions often neglect deep analytics sophistication in favour of presentation and visualisation, and also create challenges around standardisation – with business users sharing data without context, drawing different conclusions and ending up acting without a secure foundation.

>See also: Beneath big data: building the unbreakable

This growing trend was reflected in a new Information Age survey of 112 IT decision makers, commissioned by analytics company Tessella, which found that nearly 10% knew of analytics initiatives running in their business units.

“It’s a growing trend across all of the markets we operate in,” said Nick Clarke, head of analytics at Tessella. “The end user wants insight from their data at the speed the business needs, not at the speed that a corporate resource can deliver. The media is full of big data and analytics stories, and they want it working for them now, or else they fear being left behind by the competition.”

Business users need more support in how to best take advantage of the tools they’ve got, but want to move faster than central IT departments can handle – and often without their knowledge at all.

While self-service analytics is an effective tool of discovery, organisations require more advanced analytics to enable deeper levels of business change.

This desire for more advanced analytics was clear to see amongst the survey’s respondents, but only 27% were actually doing it.

Less than one in three respondents felt confident their business could deliver analytics needs with in-house resources, with 15% partly confident and 12% very confident. Consequently, 35% were actively interested in using a specialist analytics partner.

Need for speed

The demand for self-service analytics is growing because business users do not want to wait around for centralised analytics programmes, which they believe move too slowly to adapt to changing business requirements.

Self-service tools allow business users to move at the speed they want, but are not advanced enough to drive more transformative results.

Only 5.4% of the survey’s respondents said there was no need for their analytics to become more sophisticated to meet business requirements. And 80% expected the underlying data sources behind the analytics to become greater in volume, variety and complexity.

For business users to look up from their self-service world and engage with a progression to advanced analytics, these more ambitious programmes need to move with more agility and momentum, the research concluded.

The challenge organisations face is to do more advanced analytics that serve a central goal, but in a way that remains tied into the business at an individual level.

Outside analytics services can enable better support for existing business users to make the most out of expensive investment in self-service licenses, and to help deliver insight with consistent rigor.

>See also: Why most businesses are failing to draw value from big data

They can also speed up the more challenging analytics programmes in order to convince business sponsors there is another world outside of self-service. This will only happen if service providers are agile and flexible in their delivery and offerings.

“There is a clear tension between speed and depth in the analytics market,” added Clarke. “More advanced analytics requires a joined-up strategic approach, but this is too easily de-railed by operational fire-fighting and fragmented into multiple sub projects that become too difficult to resource internally.

“Skills become scarce, the ability to run parallel work streams disappears and momentum is lost, quickly followed by confidence. This survey confirms the need for specialist analytics services to prevent this loss of momentum. But it’s only effective if they can be delivered through a flexible and highly agile model.

“Things are changing too fast for a static, heavyweight approach. The business has made it clear it won’t wait long for the value to come to it, but it will need more than self–service to make that shift from discovery to deeper understanding.”

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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