Self Service BI needs Data Governance

Self Service BI I think is very important for businesses to implement and can greatly increase productivity of a business as a whole. Let me give you what I think Self Service BI. Self Service BI allows employees to conduct their daily analytics work with little to no IT intervention which increases productivity and gets answers to questions that are important to that department or set of employees.

When business are looking into Business Intelligence Visualization tools to allow it’s different departments to conduct their own data analytics and data discovery, I will say Data Governance not only greatly helps but I would state it rescues this ideology that a business wants to put into place. Data Governance can help these self service users with complex data models and ensures that all the data that is being analyzed is of the highest quality. Data Governance also makes sure that all the different departments in the business are looking and talking about the data in the same way, so everyone is getting the same story from what the data is saying and moving in the same direction.

With all the above being stated, Self Service BI does come with obstacles and each of the below obstacles need to be addressed and can be solved with a Data Governance solution. You might encounter more obstacles as you pursue Self Service BI but the below ones are the obstacles I have ran into more then several times and wished to share.

Obstacle 1: Data quality. A lot of businesses that I have worked with realize that they have data quality issues once we get into the project. Trying to convince the stakeholders that Data Governance is built for exactly this is not only cumbersome sometimes but outright difficult. Many times the stakeholders say the investment is to much in dollars, my statement back to them is that I do not think you can afford not to put a Data Governance in place. Here are just an example of some questions that you can ask the stakeholders or executives. Is there duplication in the data? Can you see all the touch points of your customers? Is the data that your systems collecting accurate and valid? Letting the stakeholders know that implementing Data Governance does not have to be a huge investment in time or money if you take the approach I like to call the Mindful Data Governance Initiative.

Obstacle 2: Data growth: Many business are seeing an exponential growth in the data that they are collecting (variety and data sources) especially business with many departments. Implementing a Data Governance solution ensures data quality and that all the processes that collect data are repeatable and valid.

Obstacle 3: One fits all: In Self Service BI there might be an attempt that one tool fits everyones needs from a sales rep to a data analytics employee. The methodology of one fits all will work in Self Service BI but will not work with Data Governance as the wide range of data analytics is way to wide. However, self-service is of no benefit if the data being accessed is not valid and governed correctly. Data Governance provides a consistent and repeatable way to manage data collection across business units and to make sure that information delivered is reliable and is of the highest quality.

Obstacle 4: Although the biggest benefit of Self-Service Computing is that it offers complete democratization of complex Data Management tasks in the daily life of a business user, you still have to think: Are there any down falls of having so much freedom over critical business data? As all types of business users will have access to critical data, isn’t Data Security and Data Privacy at high risks of loss or corruption? Unless Data Governance policies take these risks into full consideration through the rules, procedures, and access controls, the whole purpose of self-service may be compromised.

Like I stated early you will definitely come across more obstacles when implementing Self Service BI in your business and you will have to figure out solutions for them. It is my belief that if you do not have a formal Data Governance solution in place first it will make getting over all these obstacles extremely hard if not impossible.


Benefits of Business Intelligence Visualization Tools

There are so many business intelligence visualization tools available in this day and age. Tableau, Power BI, Qlik, and AIR Intel are just a few. These tools will help the users make better and more informed decisions around their business by depicting the data in a graph or chart representation. There are many benefits in using a business intelligence visualization tool and we are going to touch on a few:

• Easier to understand and quick to action: The human brain tends to process visual information far more easier than written information. Use of a chart and/or graph to summarize complex data ensures faster comprehension of relationships than cluttered reports or spreadsheets.
• Interact with data: The greatest benefit of data visualization in my opinion is that it exposes changes in a timely manner. But unlike static charts, interactive data visualizations encourage users to explore and even manipulate the data to uncover other factors. Drilling into a chart to see the underlying data which could be yet another chart or a table/grid of the raw data can assist the user in seeing the data from the highest level to the lowest. For example, we have a pie chart depicting counts of sales calls by region within a specific time frame. You can then click on a region and then see a bar chart, each one of those bars represents a count of the amount of calls each sales person did in that specific region. Then that same user can click on a specific salespersons bar from within the chart to see all the details behind the calls: Who they called, when they called, how long the call was, comments from the call, etc.. This type of functionality is allowing the user to see not only how the sales people are doing overall but allowing you to see who are the best sales people making calls and why are they successful. Are all the successful calls made within a certain time frame? The visualization tool allows you to convey a story easier.
• Creation of new discussions: Another advantage to data visualization is that it provides a ready means to tell stories from the data. Heat maps can show the development of product performance over time in multiple geographic areas, making it easier to see those products that are performing very well or those that are underperforming. With this functionality built into most visualizations tools users (Executives, managers, and employees) can drill down into specific locations to see what’s what is working and what is not and pivot if needed.
• Communicate more effectively: Gone should be the days where you read an eight to ten page document to decipher the findings of what occurred in your business by the month and/or quarter. Now you can supply reports that can decipher complex data into simple outputs and have them automatically delivered to the people that should be reviewing the data. Not only do visualization tools allow you to communicate more effectively but I would also state that the reports are automatically delivered in a more timely manner.
• Absorb more information easily: Data visualization enables users to view and understand vast amounts of information regarding operational and business conditions. It allows decision makers to see connections between multi-dimensional data sets and provides new ways to interpret data through heat maps, bar charts, line charts, bubble charts, and other rich graphical representations. Businesses that use visual data analytics are more likely to find the information they are looking for and sooner than other companies.

Above are just a few of the benefits of data visualization tools and I am sure you can think of several more if you have played around or have used visualization tools.