What is Self-Service Analytics?
Self-service analytics typically looks something like this: departmental analysts create their own reports based on internal historical data without help from IT. In many cases, analyst can also incorporate external data and create predictive scenarios to help forecast the future. For example, an analyst might use a decision tree to select customers for an event, or cluster or segmentation analysis to identify target customers for a new campaign.
Forrester recognizes self-service analytics as a critical component of business intelligence (BI) solutions. The firm recommends implementing BI solutions that can:
- Lightly customize canned reports and dashboards
- Run ad hoc queries
- Add calculated measures to existing reports
- Support user collaboration
- Fulfill BI requirements with little or no training
Stretching the Limits of Self-Service
When managers need a report, whether that means a format update or a completely new reporting scenario – they face several challenges. There may be no time to create data models, or barriers to accessing needed data from internal systems. During acquisition due diligence, a company might need a benchmark report comparing the target company with existing subsidiaries. Creating such a report from scratch in limited time while merging internal and external data can be challenging if using only traditional enterprise BI scenarios.
Another example is the need to discover data coming from an internal process and combine it with unstructured data. This might involve examining a new business situation to understand why it’s happening and using predictive models to avoid the same situation in the future.
The Flexibility of Desktop + Cloud
Working together, the self-service SAP Visual Intelligence application and SAP Predictive Analysis can help you go beyond traditional enterprise BI analytics scenarios. You can create new visualizations on the fly, discovering and analyzing data from inside and outside the organization. You can then store the resulting dataset on either a corporate network or the SAP Netweaver Cloud, SAP’s solution for cloud-based BI scenarios. This makes it available to others in your organization for analysis or discovery at any time, anywhere, via mobile BI or desktop scenarios. Alternately, you might create a new dataset while working in the cloud environment, then save it to the corporate network for reuse from the desktop.
The Power of Combined Self-Service Analytics
SAP Analytics Services can help you understand – and use – the combined power of desktop and cloud self-service analytics. In the insurance industry, for example, contracted sales representatives, despite their position on the front lines and their regular need for real-time analysis, have traditionally had limited access to corporate data.
Combined self-service analytics can change that. When agents, consultants, or even employees need special reports, the sales organization creates a new dataset or report using desktop capabilities, then store it in the cloud environment. The agent receives email announcing the new dataset’s availability on the cloud, opens it on his or her laptop or mobile device, and uses it to close the deal. The agent can even enhance the dataset with information gained in the meeting, then store it back in the cloud for later use.
The Evolution of Self-Service
Self-service analytics and enterprise BI are often viewed as two different environments; self-service reports can contain data unavailable to standard reports. Today, however, the SAP HANA platform is breaking down these barriers, making it easier to integrate datasets from self-service analytics within the enterprise BI world.
Imagine using SAP Visual Intelligence to discover new data, then combining that information with external data to evaluate a business process in SAP Business Suite. With SAP HANA, you are reporting on raw (in-memory) data; no special data model is required or available. If the new dataset is relevant for a standard report or for further processes such as planning, however, you can immediately use the raw data to create a new data model following your BI governance approach. Leveraging a single database for SAP BW on HANA and SAP Business Suite supports a single version of the truth while integrating the self-service and enterprise analytics worlds.
Learn More at Sapphire
Want to learn more about how SAP Analytics Services can help you create engaging analytics and visualizations while maximizing your analytics reach? Attend one of our Sapphire sessions in the Analytics Campus demo theater. I hope to see you at Sapphire!
 Forrester Consulting, Self-Service: An Essential Capability Of BI, April 2011