March 22, 2016
There’s one trend on Gartner’s radar that hasn’t changed much over the last few years and that’s the increasing move toward a self-service BI model. Gone are the days of your IT or analytics department being report factories. And if those days aren’t gone for you, then it’s time you make some substantive changes to your business intelligence environment. When end-users are forced to rely on another department to deliver the reports they need, the entire concept of being a “data-driven” organization goes right out the window.
So other than giving your users access to ad hoc reporting capabilities, how do you empower the user?
First it’s critical to understand that you’ve likely got two segments of users. Today we’re going to focus on just one - your Business Users.
These folks are not analysts, but they still need to be able to see and understand their data. They need to be able to drill down and filter at will. They also want to run their own reports from time to time. Maybe you’ve got a VP of Sales that’s starting to anecdotally notice a regional trend and she wants to check the data to confirm. Maybe there’s an operations manager who suspects production or distribution is slowing down in one particular place and needs to run the numbers before bringing it up the food chain. You want these users to feel empowered to do this work themselves. This is being data-driven.
Your business users don’t need much to be empowered. They need an easy to use visualization tool that allows for ad hoc reporting and collaboration, so that they can run a report and easily share the information with their team or their managers. Even more though, they need to be able to trust their data, which means that a key component to empowering your users is ensuring that whoever is running the back end to your BI environment has the tools to ensure the data is clean, enriched and fully usable.
We don’t often think about data prep and cleansing as a part of empowering the business user, but it’s a critical step. If you haven’t evaluated data prep tools like Trifacta or Paxata, they’re worth a look to ensure that you’re passing the most reliable data onto the business users that need it the most. These tools can help identify outliers or inconsistencies in your data. They can help you feel secure about passing this data onto your users.
You might also want to think about data enrichment. Are there additional data sources that would matter to your users? Would your sales team like to see how weather impacts their sales? Or your logistics team to use geo-location data to determine optimal routes? There may be data that is not proprietary to your business that could still be immensely valuable to your users.
Additionally, if you haven’t yet created an environment that allows for the easy integration of these kinds of tools, give Keboola a look. Keboola Connection ensures that optimizing your data environment takes moments instead of months. With its 60+ (and counting) permanent data connectors, bringing together new data sources or data technologies that you might need becomes a simple exercise of inputting credentials, instead of a drawn out manual process of connecting each component of the project yourself.
Empowering your users requires that you also empower yourselves as data curators. Give your users what they need, but seek out the tools, platforms and technologies that make that empowerment simple and easy.