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Self-Service BI Promise Unfulfilled, Study Indicates

Self-service business intelligence (BI) is closely related to "democratizing" Big Data analytics and other do-it-yourself movements like no-code mobile app development, all with the goal of putting advanced technologies into the hands of more users, not just the expensive and hard-to-find specialists.

That's not working out so well for self-service BI, with only 22 percent of business users having access to such tools and using them, according to a recent study by Logi Analytics, which makes tools to bring "analytics everywhere."

On the IT side, the percentage of respondents reporting such access and use is hardly better at 23 percent, according to the "State of Self-Service BI" report (registration required) released last week that surveyed more than 600 business and technology professionals in August and September.

According to research firm Gartner Inc., self-service BI is "end users designing and deploying their own reports and analyses within an approved and supported architecture and tools portfolio." According to Logi Analytics, it's "the capabilities of a software tool or application that enables business users to access data, analyze data, visualize insights, and obtain and share formatted information in the form of reports and dashboards, without the help of IT."

Top self-service BI capabilities
[Click on image for larger view.] Top self-service BI capabilities (source: Logi Analytics)

Microsoft, for one, has been courting these BI end users for more than five years now with various tools, and many others have followed suit. The initiative was described as a "myth" as far back as 2007. But according to the Logi Analytics study, there's much work to be done to get the movement mainstream.

"It's clear that business users are looking to become more self-reliant and less dependent on IT, but are lacking the tools to do so," said Logi exec Steven Schneider. "I believe we'll start to see a shift in the market, where BI tools will focus more on the BI needs of the average business user, which will help drive adoption."

According to the 36-page report, the main factors contributing to the slow adoption are limited budgets and business user skill sets, both reported by 48 percent of the IT respondents.

Yet the vast majority of respondents placed high importance on the idea itself. "Over 90 percent of business and IT users agree that it is important for business users to access data and information without the help of IT," the report stated.

The importance of the burgeoning Big Data movement was also reflected in the study in a section titled "Doubling Down on Big Data." It found that within two years, the industry expects "doubling the adoption of Big Data sources."

Other report highlights include:

  • 84 percent of IT organizations plan to invest in self-service BI in the next 12-24 months.
  • 24 percent of businesses have already purchased self-service BI tools without IT signoff, and this trend is growing.
  • 79 percent of business users say they mostly use spreadsheets versus other tools.
  • 31 percent of business users say they can promote a new insight they discover to a standard report delivered by IT.

The study also found some interesting differences of opinion on the part of the business and IT respondents.

"We discovered areas of misalignment and need for improvement," the report stated. "Business users say it is most important for them to not only consume pre-formatted reports, but also be able to analyze data and create reports on their own. On the other hand, IT considers consumption and exporting to spreadsheets as most important to business users. To make matters worse, the most important capabilities for business users were the ones they were least satisfied with."

Logi Analytics last month updated its Logi Info BI platform designed to let users embed self-service capabilities into their applications, and empower business users with the ability to author their own data visualizations, dashboards and reports.

About the Author

David Ramel is the editor of Visual Studio Magazine.

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