The idea of self-service business intelligence has been at the core of the BI promise – transforming raw data into meaningful and useful information for business purposes – is now back at the top of the BI industry headlines? Should you ignore the buzz and just go on with your business? You shouldn’t.

First, let’s get the semantics out of the way: Self service is an approach to BI that lets business users access and work with corporate information without the IT department’s involvement. For the most part, people agree with two fundamental concepts: one is “more autonomy for the end users” and the second one is “have as little IT involvement as possible”. And those are not new concepts. Go back to December 22, 1997 and read the first WebIntelligence press release:

WebIntelligence provides end users with self-service access to data stored in data warehouses, data marts, and packaged business applications (such as SAP R/3). Using WebIntelligence, end users can autonomously access these data sources without having to submit development requests to IS.”


So why has Self Service BI grabbed news headlines consistently since 2012? After all, it’s not a new concept. Below is a list of three reasons why Self Service BI is still making news:


  1. Technological Advancements: Moore’s law might not be what it used to be, but servers, PCs, mobile phones, and tablets are packing more transistors per dollar than ever. Software engineers have learned how to take advantage of them and essentially reduce the query time to a non-factor: Innovative systems capable of storing and crunching on the spot all the data you ever need; beautiful user interfaces representing data graphically no matter how big is your data set; fluid interactions with the data. No more waiting!
  2. Users Expectations have changed. People don’t have 2 set of expectations when it comes to software: one for business applications and another one for all those ‘apps’ they used in their life outside of work (and often during work!). Business people are expecting the same simplicity, the same elegance, the same responsive UIs in their business applications. And if their expectations are not met they will likely forgo using the company-sanctioned bi tools and go ‘rogue’ with a new one their nephew has told them about.
  3. Business Demands: Speed is the new mantra. “Significantly increase your speed, and you can reach new, possibly more profitable realms ahead of competitors” said CIO Magazine back in July 2013. Not only you need to be on top of the traditional metrics (think reports and dashboards), but you must also dig into all the available corporate data and find the hidden opportunities, the hidden costs, etc. And not only you need this insight, but you need it in the next hour. Yikes!

Enter Agile Visualization, the “new-er” face of Self Service BI. At its core, the agile visualization promise is similar to what you have heard before: More autonomy for the business users and limited involvement from IT. Agile Visualization also brings to the mix a simpler user experience, one that uses crisp visualizations to convey knowledge and information and helps tell stories like how your sales team “crushed” the last quarter, or something you would like to bring to their attention.

Is Agile Visualization the one-stop solution to all your information needs? Probably not, but best-in-class companies are already adopting agile visualizations in combination with traditional BI and are reporting greater BI success: 75% of better performing organizations deploy data visualizations as part of their BI environment compared to only 41% in companies with less growth.

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Are other factors at play? Maybe, but I suggest not staying on the sidelines. Educate yourself about agile visualization or even better don’t wait any longer: go to www.saplumira.com, download SAP Lumira and start using it against your Excel data. It’s free!

I’ll leave the last word to one of the customers interviewed in a recent survey sponsored by SAP:

The more you enable business with self-service BI technologies, the fewer things get lost in translation.”

                                              IT Manager, chemicals manufacturer, Australia

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