Self-Service Business Intelligence: What is It and What Are the Benefits and Drawbacks?

Self-Service Business Intelligence
Image source: | Self-Service Business Intelligence: What is It and What Are the Benefits and Drawbacks? | Business intelligence (BI) is only as good as it can be understood and utilized by an entire workforce. The democratization of data for broad usage is trending, empowering businesses to make better decisions through more thoroughly disseminated intelligence. Self-service BI is one manifestation of this process.

Self-service BI allows users to obtain key insights without needing to wait on a specialist for answers. It is an artificial intelligence-driven, technological method of preparing analytical insights while reducing the workload of BI specialists. But it’s not a perfect system.

For businesses thinking of integrating self-service BI, they must first understand exactly what this system is and does. Benefits and drawbacks alike can come from implementing self-service BI. All these features must be analyzed for an informed business decision.

Here, we break down the main points to better guide you.

Self-Service BI Defined

Business intelligence can get complicated. With all the variations and differences between data information and BI processes, understanding the finer points of analytical jargon can be difficult. 

Business intelligence is the method of analytics that makes use of present data to inform business decisions. This differs from business analytics, which typically relies on modeling data to predict future trends and actions. Business intelligence often requires dedicated personnel to interpret data and create comprehensive graphics and dashboards to communicate key performance indicators (KPIs) and other valuable metrics to their team. 

Self-service BI, then, is the process of opening up those present analytics for widespread use. Rather than relying on BI experts, businesses can use self-service BI platforms to draw needed data or compose graphics without having to wait on the intelligence team.

This can be a highly beneficial practice—time-saving and communicative—but there are drawbacks as well that every business should consider.

The Benefits

Using a self-service BI system can bring with it many positives that unify and support a workplace. From the saved time to the increase in knowledge, widespread access to shared data points makes self-service BI a desirable innovation.

Here are some of the benefits self-service BI can bring to your workplace:

Data Unification

One of the greatest challenges in sharing BI insights across a workspace is the changing nature of that information. When converted into spreadsheets or accessed on different machines, data points tend to shift or become inaccessible. This can make it difficult for BI experts to share their knowledge in a usable manner.

With self-service BI, a dashboard is created that all authorized workers can access. This keeps information up-to-date and consistent no matter who is using it or on what device. Then, workers can draw and compile the information they need without having to question the origins or meaning of the data. Everyone can be on the same page through data unification.

Enhanced Knowledge and Respectability Across Positions

With access to BI at every stage of their processes, all workers across a company stand to benefit from data-driven decision making. This can help align everything from human resources to business strategy, improving the knowledge, expertise, and ultimately the respectability of all positions.

For HR workers, for example, BI insights help to track and measure the success of a workforce while highlighting areas of need. They can then apply those insights into finding ideal new hires, or by restructuring employee resource campaigns to offer more helpful programs.

In short, having access to data allows all kinds of workers to participate in informed self-improvement. The results can mean a more efficient and thriving workplace, driven by data. 

Faster Data-Driven Decision Making

A key aspect of workplace efficiency is speed. By enabling all workers to reach unified data sets and compile useful metrics, businesses take the waiting time out of business intelligence. Rather than having to reach out to BI experts, workers can access KPIs and performance metrics, competitor info, and more to make efficient, data-driven decisions.

The right BI software will allow for this efficiency, offering an accessible dashboard that all workers can access and utilize. Through such a program, the power of informed decision-making can make its way to all reaches of a company.

While these powerful benefits can be a hard draw for integrating self-service BI, such a system is not for everyone. Drawbacks come with using self-service BI that your company should be aware of.

The Drawbacks

Self-service BI can be incredibly useful. However, the accessibility and power of such a system can present its own set of problems for a business. Some of these drawbacks include:

Data Anarchy

Arguments against self-service BI models say that time is actually not being saved in many cases because self-service BI does not excel at every level of reporting. This ends up resulting in situations where ad hoc data and conventional reporting are divided in their outputs, leaving companies with more fragmented data across their servers. 

With a variety of reports drawn up by various departments at various times, the system can end up becoming a bit anarchical without structured expectations and data plans.

False Confidence

There is a good reason BI experts and departments exist within companies. Generating proper, usable BI analytics takes skill and experience. This is something that cannot be expected of the average self-service BI user. 

Resultantly, companies that make use of self-service BI can be lulled into a false sense of confidence, thinking the data they are generating is infallible. Without experienced BI professionals to properly interpret results, data can be mishandled, potentially damaging the effectiveness of data-driven decision making.


When every department is paying for the licensing of self-service BI software, the costs can quickly add up. This could be a big drawback for companies with tight budgets, looking to manage data-efficiency alongside financial efficiency.

Since self-service BI programs are best used to supplement the work of a BI expert but not replace them, companies should not look to directly save costs through the application of self-service BI. However, the insights generated by such a system could end up being an investment that pays for itself in the long run.

With benefits and drawbacks to consider, the integration of self-service BI should come with thorough analysis by decision-makers for any business. Then, should the time come, IT and BI experts will be better prepared to implement and manage self-service BI for company-wide success.

Implementing Self-Service BI

Self-service BI, like any BI system, requires useful and accessible implementation standards to get it right. These standards include:

  • Choosing and adjusting a software specifically for all users who need it
  • Eliminating distracting or noisy metrics that will not be useful
  • Ensuring a comprehensive, clean design that users can easily manage
  • Eliminating jargon and unnecessary complexity

With these tips in mind, businesses can better implement a self-service BI system for the good of the company. However, this step should only be taken after proper analysis.

Self-service BI means the democratization of data for quicker, easier BI insights across departments. However, democratization can lead to a lack of coordination. Decision-makers looking to implement self-service BI should be prepared with standards and regulations for its use to best ensure efficiency.

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