How to Choose the Right Self-Service BI Platform for Your Business

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Step into a toy store with endless aisles of playthings, and you’ll notice that each one is more dazzling than the last. Now swap those toys for self-service business intelligence (BI) platforms, and you’ve got an idea of what businesses are facing today: too many well-made options, and not enough guidance on how to pick the perfect one. 

Finding the right self-service BI platform is like hunting for that one toy that is both fun and educational—worth your time and investment. You need something that suits your business goals, scales with your needs, and is a good value. Maybe you’re unsure how to sift through the noise and marketing glitz to find your match. It’s best to lay down some ground rules and guideposts to help you make an informed choice.

Know your needs

Selecting a self-service BI platform requires a keen understanding of your business needs and objectives. You’ve got to dig into what features align with how you make data-driven choices. Get that right, and you’re golden. 

Self-service BI tools come packed with several user-friendly features like:

  • Ad hoc query: Lets you dig into data on the fly, making it easy to answer questions as they pop up
  • Data visualization: Turns raw numbers into easy-to-understand graphs, making insights obvious 
  • Dashboard design: Lets you customize and see the data that matters most to you at a glance
  • Report generation capabilities: Allows you to whip up detailed summaries fast, helping everyone get on the same page

Self-service BI platforms let users dig into multiple data sources and make sense of it without waiting on IT. You can look at, tweak, and share data yourself, and even make your own reports. Compared to the BI tools from a decade ago, you’re not stuck waiting for insights or relying on tech support just to get access to data sets. Plus, learning how to use these tools means you get smarter about your data, helping you make better business choices.

When selecting a self-service BI platform, you should consider its:

  • Flexibility: Can different departments use it?
  • Cost: Does it fit within your budget?
  • User-friendliness: Is it easy enough for everyone on your team to use?
  • Specialized features: Does it offer location-based data if your business needs that?
  • Integration capability: Will it play nice with your existing tools and systems?
  • Governance: How well do you control data access and quality?

The primary goal of BI is to help businesses run smoothly by connecting employees to the data they need to make critical decisions.

Budget considerations

Companies in the market for a self-service BI platform should keep an eye on the cost. Pricing plans and long-term contracts can vary wildly from one vendor to the next, so be sure it’s a fit for your budget. BI platforms have never been cheap, but with more options on the market, prices are coming down. They used to be enterprise-only tools, but now they’re within budgetary reach of smaller companies.

While you’re doing your homework on costs, check that the platform can handle the kinds of data and metrics you need. Make sure it’s user-friendly, too, because an easy-to-use tool will give you more bang for your buck compared to old-school BI setups. Steer clear of platforms that are jam-packed with technical bells and whistles you’ll never use; you don’t want to end up paying for features that gather digital dust.

Ease of use

​​Picking an easy-to-use self-service BI tool lets both tech-savvy and not-so-tech-savvy folks use data without needing a crash course or a call to IT. BI tools that have a user-friendly interface make it a breeze to pick what data you want to look at. You can just drag and drop it to create some meaningful charts or graphs in no time.

Give employees enough time to get the hang of the new software and what it can do. A BI training plan should make sure everyone knows how to use the system right. That includes teaching them how to dig up the business data they need and make superior visuals, dashboards, and reports. If teams find the tool difficult to use, you might consider switching to a competing product.

Quick setup is key for a self-service BI platform. You shouldn’t waste time moving from buying the license to making your first dashboard. The ability to make fast data changes is also a must in self-service BI, as it will help you save time and money.

Scalability

A good self-service BI platform has to be scalable, so your company can roll with the punches when data demands change. You shouldn’t have to worry about extra costs for infrastructure or licenses. It should handle more data, more users, and more work without slowing down or losing features. Plus, it needs to keep up as your business grows, making it easy to analyze and visualize quickly-evolving data sets.

The key perks of self-service BI tools center around being more cost-effective and flexible. BI platforms built for self-service are built to scale, so when you’ve got more data, more users, or need more processing power, you’re covered. Plus, they’re designed to work fast and stay smooth, making your self-service experience as efficient as possible.

Moreover, scalability allows for easy integration with other systems and technologies as the business evolves, letting the platform adapt to meet your changing needs.

Data sources and integration

A good self-service BI tool should make it easy to hook up to all kinds of data sources, whether it’s Azure Synapse, Google BigQuery, or even your home-grown CRM. The goal is to pull all that info together so everyone’s on the same page when making decisions. Your BI platform should be able to get at this data easily from any meaningful data source. 

The platform needs to go beyond traditional integrations, however; it should also manage other data types to give you a comprehensive view across your business. The platform should handle other types of data to give you the full picture, including finance, sales, product, customer, manufacturing, staffing, and anything else relevant for your data-driven decision making. 

Extra points if it uses and manages data source metadata, which can offer more context for your analysis. With data connectors in the mix, you can pull info from databases, CRMs, or other software like finance and marketing tools, making the platform a real powerhouse for data querying.

Security, compliance, and governance features

Self-service BI platforms need strong security features to safeguard your data, uphold privacy laws, and keep the bad guys out. Make sure your BI platform supports Role-Based Access Control (RBAC), which gives specific users the right permissions, making your data more secure and cutting the risk of any shady stuff happening. 

Additional security measures to consider include encryption, firewalls, and access lists to lock your data down tight. Companies can fortify these security measures and keep an eye on who’s doing what through user checks, monitoring, and audits. 

If your industry is regulated or you are subject to any compliance programs (e.g. PCI DSS), you’ll want to make sure the BI platform you choose honors all of those compliance requirements. In some cases, this process may mean automated logging and documentation.

Customization and flexibility

We can’t overstate the customization and flexibility of a self-service BI tool. It includes features that let you build your own dashboards, reports, and visualizations to fit your unique business needs. Other features allow you to keep tabs on real-time data and give the higher-ups quick access to key metrics and KPIs for faster decision-making

Exception reporting is another game-changing feature. It gives you a heads-up when something odd happens that needs quick action. It also adds another layer to how you can tweak a self-service BI tool to your needs. Basically, it allows you to set up your data analysis just how you like it so you make smarter business decisions.

Trial and demo

Checking out trial and demo options is a smart move when you’re shopping for a self-service BI platform. They let you take the tool for a spin so you know what you’re getting. Most trial periods last anywhere from a week to two months, giving you enough time to see if it’s a good fit for your business.

A demo can show you the ropes by highlighting features like:

  • Custom tables and schemas
  • Mapping capabilities
  • Drag-and-drop abilities
  • Collaboration abilities
  • Interactive dashboards and visualizations

In short, ​​getting your hands on the trial and demo will help you determine whether the platform meets your business needs.

Revelate boosts self-service BI

Revelate isn’t just another data fulfillment platform; it’s a one-stop shop for everything data-related. With its user-friendly interface and scalable options, it’s a top pick for companies looking to make smarter decisions based on data. Revelate lets you dig into your data, find trends, and even build your own dashboards and reports without breaking a sweat.

It’s not just about analytics either. Revelate automates the details of data distribution, so you can share valuable info with anyone, from any source, to any destination. Plus, their website analytics feature digs into site performance and visitor behavior, so you know where your traffic is coming from.

The best part is that Revelate plays nice with other data systems. Whether you’re packaging data, integrating it into other products, or just trying to make sense of it all, Revelate gives your company the tools to really embrace data-driven decisions.

Checklist/summary

To wrap up, here’s a quick checklist to help you make an informed decision when picking the right self-service BI platform for your business.

Know Your Needs

  • Look for features that directly align with your business goals
  • Ensure the platform is easy enough for your entire team to use

Budget

  • Compare price plans to find one that fits within your budget
  • Avoid platforms with features you won’t use to save money

Ease of Use

  • Choose a platform with a user-friendly interface
  • Make sure the setup process is quick and straightforward

Scalability

  • Pick a platform that can handle increased data and user loads as your business grows
  • Confirm it integrates easily with other systems as your needs change

Data Sources and Integration

  • Make sure the platform can connect to all the data sources you need
  • Check that it can manage different types of data for a complete business view

Security and Compliance

  • Opt for strong security features like Role-Based Access Control (RBAC)
  • Make sure the platform meets all industry-specific compliance requirements

Customization and Flexibility

  • Look for customization options for dashboards, reports, and real-time data tracking
  • Ensure the platform offers features like exception reporting for more tailored use

Trial and Demo

  • Use the trial period to test if the platform meets your specific business needs
  • Demos can highlight key features and show how they’ll work for you
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Frequently asked questions

What is the difference between self-service business intelligence and traditional business intelligence?

Traditional Business Intelligence tools typically require a dedicated team to handle data management and reporting, whereas Self-Service Business Intelligence gives users the ability to access, model and analyze data independently for quicker and more agile responses to data insights.

What are the benefits of self-service business intelligence?

Self-service BI tools provide an intuitive UI that makes data interaction easier to access and analyze, allowing everyone within your organization to create reports with actionable insights. They make it easy for those without technical knowledge to benefit from the power of business intelligence.

How does role-based access control (RBAC) enhance security in self-service BI platforms?

RBAC improves security in self-service BI platforms by granting authorized users access to specific resources based on their roles, providing fine-grained control over data and access privileges.