Self-service Business Intelligence Tools: The Potential Of Computer-aided Information Stating – Business Intelligence (BI) as such has been known since the 1960s. However, back then the choice between different BI tools was practically non-existent and only a few IT specialists could use it. Consequently, business intelligence methods were also difficult to apply to daily management decisions.
A lot has changed since then: managers at all levels are turning to one or another BI method to master the challenges of their daily work life, and business units are also using BI techniques to get the most out of their data. However, in most cases, standard office software with database queries works as a one-size-fits-all tool for BI queries, and only a few use the plethora of powerful self-service BI tools (SSBI tools) available on the market.
Self-service Business Intelligence Tools: The Potential Of Computer-aided Information Stating
Thus, this article discusses the potential of BI in general and SSBI tools in particular. In addition, we summarize the pros and cons of the various methods and compare them to well-known and very individual MS Excel & Access dashboard solutions.
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An umbrella term that includes applications, infrastructure and tools and best practices that enable information access and analysis to improve and optimize decisions and performance.
. Thus, it summarizes any means of data discovery, analysis and visualization needed to support management decisions to optimize business processes, define strategic objectives and extrapolate any kind of data.
With the introduction of artificial intelligence (AI) components in everyday business processes, in particular the extrapolation aspect of BI analysis has become increasingly important over the years: most SSBI tools benefit from improved predictive features, machine learning algorithms and high-quality statistics. Models .
BI tools or the use of BI tools can be divided into technical and “business” parts. The technical part of the BI analysis is usually carried out by the IT department, in accordance with the definitions and requirements of the business department. The business unit is provided with a bespoke report, interprets and further analyzes the charts and data, and possibly also refines previous requirements, thus starting the process over.
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In contrast, SSBI tools are designed as stand-alone tools and are intended to be fully functional across business units. Thus, the additional cycle of providing requirements specifications to the IT department, receiving a report, processing the requirements and receiving another report – is eliminated to make the entire process of BI analysis as smooth as possible. To achieve this goal, the full potential of the SSBI software should be accessible through deep knowledge of statistical methods, programming hacks, etc. without reducing the BI-functionality of the tools. Different providers of SSBI tools have found different ways to meet these requirements.
Thus, the key question is how business intelligence is or should be implemented in a particular business environment, since there are as many tools to choose from as there are aspects to analyze.
One very simple solution to realizing business intelligence is, of course, to use the resources at hand. That’s why MS Office software often suggests itself as the first step in BI analysis and dashboarding. However, on closer inspection, this solution also has some downsides, and it might be worth investing some time to consider a dedicated SSBI tool.
In the following, we will first discuss some pros and cons of “traditional” and usually self-made MS Office BI solutions.
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Costs and Setup: In most cases, MS Office Suite programs are standard software equipment in a corporate environment. All components are available and ready to go when a new BI analysis needs to be started.
Software functionality: The availability of MS Office Suite is related to the fact that users know how to handle analysis with MS Office programs, training and adaptation phases for new tools are outdated. Also, in terms of employee satisfaction, the power of habit often makes Excel & Co the BI solution with the least resistance among users.
Existing preliminary analysis: Any kind of data analysis belongs to the activities of employees and managers. As a result, there are many pre-existing analyzes that work in advance on any aspect that is subject to the next BI report.
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Example. Assume that the analysis requires the integration of several data sources, a combination of diverse transformations, and multiple steps of analysis with clear graphical representations. Completing this task with MS Office programs results in an extremely difficult and time-consuming effort to transfer data from the original databases or data warehouses to Access, Excel, and eventually Power Point to achieve the desired BI-analysis in the form of a dashboard.
Prone to (manual) errors. Due to different data transmissions, possibly different individuals performing data transformations between transmissions, many potential sources of error arise.
A lot of effort to implement, operate and customize. During the final analysis and construction of the board, the first implementation, subsequent modifications, as well as the regular operation of the self-built process chain, all steps are quite time and resource intensive:
Limited performance. Analysis of large data sets often reaches the limits of Excel & Co., although the xlsx-format allows for about a million rows. Unfortunately, truly large datasets are imported into e.g. Data warehouses can easily exceed this number. To reanalyze the data, the original set must be split and analyzed into groups, potentially hiding correlations or patterns in the data. Furthermore, even if the data set stays within this limit, complex analysis soon becomes unwieldy and processing becomes slower with increasing numbers of rows.
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In short, the benefits of custom-built MS Office BI solutions quickly outweigh the drawbacks. This is especially true if the data set to be analyzed is of significant size, if the analysis is to be shared and modified among several team members, or if it appears that a “quick and dirty” report will be used. and develops over a longer period of time. The more sensitive the data, the more important it is to have highly automated, transparent, and stable data transformations that can be easily documented and troubleshooted if necessary.
Thus, this article continues the development of SSBI tools that are serious alternatives to MS Office BI solutions.
SSBI tools provide non-technical business users with the means to collect, analyze, visualize, and share data. By offering highly intuitive handling, enhanced data analysis functionality and modular visual elements, end users can easily create the required dashboard or report or explore their data without much effort. In more detail, SSBI tools offer the following benefits:
With these advantages in mind, we will discuss the detailed steps for creating a report in the next section.
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Regardless of the BI tool used, the basic steps to a new report or dashboard are always similar, see Figure 1:
The first step in developing a BI report is to gather relevant data. Identifying the required data sources, extracting and importing data sets and thus creating a data model for further analysis lays the foundation for the next steps.
An important feature of BI Tools is evident here: with various predefined interfaces on board, connections to many different data sources such as files, flat files, databases or online services can be established without further delay. Once the data is available in the BI Tool, the data model can be immediately refined and configured for the user’s needs with the help of data filters, transformations and column extraction. The main purpose of this step is to keep the data model as compact and clear as possible and thereby reduce unnecessary extra data and unnecessary complexity for the next steps.
In order to create a dashboard, provide and present a concise and comprehensive overview of your data, the next step is a thorough analysis. Further transformations and, for example, the merging of different datasets of the data model, therefore exist before the presentation of the data.
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Next, it is necessary to choose the right form of visualization and connect the charts to the data model. SSBI-Tools offers a
Lots of predefined graphics and charts that can be customized individually. Because the data and graphics, and – depending on the design – also the circuits are interconnected, one particular modification only needs to be performed once and then transmitted in real time.
It is important to remember that the charts themselves do not have to represent the final level of analysis: equipped with additional filters and options, each chart still contains a lot of information that the end user can easily access with a few clicks. buttons. In this sense, the goal of pre-analysis and dashboarding is to accumulate data flow on relevant aspects and better digest these aspects through visualization. Using filters and options on the drawn charts, the main parameters and conclusions can be drawn immediately.
: A report should be prepared for each business unit. It should contain, among other things, information
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