Written By: Matthew Halliday, Co-Founder and Head of Products, Incorta

Originally posted July 24, 2019

Does the thought of moving to self-service business intelligence keep you up at night? You’re not alone.

Senior IT leaders are often stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to self-service BI. While empowering individuals and teams to make better decisions with data can be revolutionary for the business, making the vision a reality is no small feat.

Self-service BI environments create untold new challenges for IT teams: How do you give business users the freedom to experiment and explore without burying the organization under a mountain of unsanctioned reports? How do you guarantee that data and reports are always accurate in this type of environment? What happens when bad data goes viral?

Shift Your Team’s Mindset From Control to Empowerment

Transitioning to self-service BI starts with coaching your IT team to rethink their relationship with data. Let go of the traditional gatekeeper mindset and focus instead on finding ways to empower business users to become data scientists in their own right.

This mindset shift toward data democratization is at the heart of self-service BI. With the right culture, tools and processes, your team doesn’t need ironfisted control to ensure the data provides valuable insights. Imagine the possibilities if every employee had open access to accurate data and analytics across the entire organization, with the ability to experiment with and “remix” that data however they wanted. From HR to DevOps to Sales, every decision would become data-driven.

Strike the Right Balance Between Freedom and Oversight

Trying to implement self-service BI without some level of oversight is asking for trouble. Provide too much freedom and even well-intentioned business users will undoubtedly make mistakes, such as forgetting to filter out noisy data or mixing and matching the wrong data. If a report with incorrect data goes viral, it can lead people to make bad decisions without even knowing it, which can hurt the business. What’s more, responsibility inevitably falls on senior IT leadership.

On the other hand, with too much oversight, you end up right back where you started – scrubbing data, approving reports, dealing with a growing list of data change requests and building a hodgepodge of reports for every whim of the business. That doesn’t work well for modern businesses with a top-down mandate to become data-driven.

Build a Company-Wide Culture of Data Curiosity

As a senior IT leader, your success in implementing self-service BI hinges on the success of your business users. You want them to quickly adopt the data tools and technology you provide, use them effectively and spread the word broadly. In other words, you want to create a culture of data curiosity that spreads across the entire organization.

How do you do it? By investing in education and proactive support in three key areas that underpin BI: data curation, explanation and perspective.

To analyze large volumes of complex business data typically required investment in a costly, time-consuming data warehouse infrastructure. Even then, the data analyzed is oftentimes a day or more old— frustrating analysts and the IT team alike.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. eCapital’s solution partner, Incorta, has developed a Direct Data Mapping engine that opens the door to a more powerful yet simpler approach to enterprise analytics.