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What is “Self-Service BI”?

I just spent the past two weeks visiting some of my favorite customers in North America and Europe. I enjoy being able to have an open and honest dialog with customers, both from the SAP side and theirs. During these meetings we had a great discussion about the definition of self-service BI and some of them, like Mark Cooper, were pretty passionate about the misuse of the term to refer to a subset of tools, when it should really refer to what IT is enabling the end user to do. Mark has written a great blog summarizing his position. When we visited the North America group, they, unaware of his feedback, raised very similar points.

I think Mark and others have raised a good points on how I am defining self-service BI to just a subset of tools or intentions. In fact, at SAP, we have started calling, what I refer to as self-service BI in my previous blogs on the evolution of self-service and SAP’s self-service BI solution, Agile Visualization. James Fisher, VP of Analytics Marketing at SAP, believes Agile Visualization is part of a bigger Analytics mission to unlock the power of collective insight.

When considering self-service it is important to think about the overall goals of BI and ensure the structure of the solution and the organization are optimized for success. Wayne Eckerson has a great whitepaper on this topic, Enterprise Versus Departmental BI: Pulling Together Instead of Apart. He explores the organizational make-up which is needed to achieve success.

I look forward to reflecting on the feedback from Mark and others over the holidays and hopefully we can all work together to provide guidance which acknowledges and captures the realities of trying to balance the demands to the business for self-serve with a structure that accounts for the nature of each organization.

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