The self-service BI model is changing the role of IT for the better

A tidal wave of data is crashing into every sector and function in modern day business, becoming more prominent and overwhelming at the same time. As the volume of data has increased, so too has the realisation that meaningful insight and valuable information can be drawn from it. Two necessities have emerged – the need for more real-time analysis, and the need for more people to have access to it.

Traditional business intelligence solutions were custom built applications designed to analyse raw data. Requiring specialist skillsets and support from IT to design and deploy, actionable insight took a significant amount of time.

> See also: Gartner's business intelligence predictions

Requirements for faster, flexible business intelligence led to a new approach – one some are calling 'operational business intelligence.' What this ultimately means is that business intelligence should empower the whole organisation, not just business leaders, to make better day-to-day decisions driven by analytics.

This democratisation of data has in part emerged as a consequence of a number of trends, notably the consumerisation of IT in general, with technology now designed for the end user, not just the technologically astute. A new breed of business intelligence tools are easy to use, do not require specialist training, yet remain incredibly powerful.

Significantly cutting down on the ‘time to insight,’ they are eliminating complicated administrative processes, as well as the need for multiple departments’ involvement. They also allow the end user the flexibility to interact with the data as an ongoing process.

This type of agile decision making, aided by self-service analytics software, is rapidly improving organisational performance within businesses across the globe.

More than a just a change in type of software, business intelligence software is causing organisation wide cultural shifts. Thoughtful IT departments are not just embracing but actually leading this transition, undoubtedly changing the way they are perceived within their own companies.

The business demand for self-service access to data has required IT to reassess current practices and structures. Whilst some perceive this business agility means losing control, progressive IT groups are in fact empowering business users to ensure the entire organisation benefits from faster, data driven insight.

The technology itself is freeing up IT personnel from producing and revising reports that historically have taken up a significant amount of time, enabling them to get back to focusing on core tasks and looking ahead at the technological direction of the company.

This fresh approach means IT still holds on to the security controls and data governance within the organisation. As individual business groups seek out their own analytical tools, IT must begin to work more closely with the rest of the business, whilst applying established IT practices and policies.

Simple approaches like locking down all enterprise data will no longer work in an age where organisations rely on data to make decisions at every level. Neither will the approach of freeing all company data to the rest of the world. It’s up to IT to investigate what data governance will look like in a world of self-service business analytics, and develop new processes to help keep data secure whilst enabling those who need access to do their jobs.

The core data analyst will remain for the heavy lifting in the largest of companies, however sophisticated data analysis will continue to feed into day-to-day activities across the entire business.

> See also: Profiting from the data revolution: how to become a smart business

The need for self-service business intelligence marks a critical opportunity for IT to redefine itself as a business leading function, rather than one of support. Helping business users tell better success stories and receive greater data analysis will make IT even more valuable.

Change is imminent across every organisation which values data driven decisions. Self-service business intelligence tools will only become more important competitive differentiators in the years to come.

Through this shared success with the rest of the organisation, IT will ultimately gain recognition as a critical enabler to the business.

Sourced from James Eiloart, VP EMEA, Tableau Software

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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...