Good Or Bad? Exploring Self Service Analytics

By August 28, 2017Knowledge
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There’s a big movement in the business intelligence space to empower users to wield data on their own or what we call self service analytics.

While the premise is great, this approach comes with its own pros and cons. Let’s take a closer look at the idea of self service analytics and what it brings to the table.

What is it?

Self Service Analytics is an approach that essentially enables business users access to corporate data. With this access they are able to build their own reports and visualizations as they see fit.

It’s almost like a sandbox for them to play in, with the hope that they can discover trends and answer questions without need for outside help.

Sounds like a great idea, as many problems in the workplace stem from the friction between IT and the business. This is especially the case when it comes to access to information on demand. The supposed solution is self service analytics.

Why is it good

There’s certainly a lot of good to be found from this approach. First and foremost is that an analyst is now capable of creating basic reports on their own.

If they have a simple question they need answered, they are capable of finding the answer themselves, which leads us to the bigger benefit: independence from IT.

Much friction is often found between IT and the business areas of any organization and that relationship only gets strained when one or the other is unable to deliver.

Self service analytics removes this friction from the equation. Not completely, but it adds a buffer before such requests from one business unit to the other are made, saving both time.

While there’s value to be found in self service, there are just as many issues.

Why is it bad

Self service also opens up a Pandora’s Box for the business analyst. They are able to explore anything and everything, how they see fit, which may in reality be a waste of time.

Many business analysts don’t have an understanding of statistics or data models to properly utilize the data they now have access to. At the other end of the spectrum, you have users who get carried away to the point where what they’re analyzing is meaningless.

Knowing how to analyze information is as much an art, as it is a skill, and it takes time to develop it.

Beyond not knowing how to use the provided data, is the threat of information overload and poor data governance. When users have the freedom to leverage and combine data however they wish, the results can be ugly.

While providing data to your business users is a great idea, how they use that data can become a problem.


The truth is, self service analytics is a double edged sword that isn’t the savior for all analytic challenges at a company.

Organizations would do well to provide self service solutions in a reasonably controlled manner. Furthermore, adequate training is a must for users to truly get value from the information they are given.

Ultimately it is up to the business how they handle self service analytics, but it’s important to be aware of the good and the bad. The rest is up to you.