What is Self-Service Business Intelligence (Self-Service BI)? (2024)


  • Craig Stedman,Industry Editor
  • Mary K. Pratt
  • Jacqueline Biscobing,Senior Managing Editor, News

Self-service business intelligence (BI) is an approach to data analytics that enables business users to access and explore data sets even if they don't have a background in BI or related functions like data mining and statistical analysis. Self-service BI tools allow users to filter, sort, analyze and visualize data without involving an organization's BI and IT teams.

Organizations implement self-service BI capabilities to make it easier for employees from executives to frontline workers to get useful business insights from the data collected in BI systems. The primary goal is to drive more informed decision-making that results in positive business outcomes, such as increased efficiency, better customer satisfaction and higher revenue and profits.

Traditional vs. self-service BI

With traditional BI tools and processes, the BI team or IT does the data analysis work for business users. In this approach, users request new analytical queries, which a BI analyst or other BI professional writes and runs for them. Similarly, users ask for new reports and BI dashboards, typically through a requirements-gathering process initiated by BI staffers.

Once a project is approved -- which can take weeks in some cases -- the BI team prepares the required data or, if need be, works with IT to extract it from source systems, transform and cleanse it, and load it into a data warehouse or other data store. The BI team then creates queries to produce the requested analytics results and designs a dashboard or report to display the information.

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Conversely, a self-service BI environment enables business analysts, executives and other users to run queries themselves and create their own data visualizations, dashboards and reports. Because some of those users may not be tech-savvy, it's imperative that the user interface (UI) in self-service analytics software be intuitive and easy to use. But self-service BI systems should meet the needs of both casual users, who may only want to view data, and power users with more technical skills.

Training should be done to help self-service users understand what data is available and how it can be queried and used to make data-driven business decisions. In many cases, the members of the BI team also support users as needed on an ongoing basis and promote BI best practices throughout the organization.

What is Self-Service Business Intelligence (Self-Service BI)? (1)

What are the benefits of self-service BI?

The expanded data access and analytics capabilities that self-service BI provides can benefit businesses in a variety of ways. The potential benefits include:

  • Better use of BI and IT resources. Because business users can do their own ad hoc analysis, self-service BI frees an organization's BI and IT teams from creating the majority of queries, visualizations, dashboards and reports. That allows them to focus on higher-value priorities and tasks that require more technical skills, such as curating data sets for business users and creating complex queries.
  • Faster data analysis and decision-making. Self-service capabilities help reduce bottlenecks in BI programs by shifting analytics work to business users instead of a small number of BI professionals. That in turn accelerates business processes, because users can more quickly analyze data and then make decisions and take actions.
  • A data-driven organization. As more business executives, managers and workers use BI tools, self-service systems can help create a fully data-driven culture in both the C-suite and business operations.
  • Competitive advantages. The expanded use of data and accelerated decision-making can make an organization more agile as a whole, which may help it create or maintain a competitive edge in the marketplace -- particularly if its use of self-service tools is more substantial and successful than similar efforts by business rivals.

What are the challenges of self-service BI?

Self-service BI deployments also pose various challenges for organizations. The hurdles and roadblocks to a successful self-service initiative include:

  • Lack of adoption by business users. Like traditional BI environments, self-service ones can be held back by resistance from business executives and managers who want to continue to base decisions on their own knowledge and intuition. Self-service BI applications that don't have user-friendly interfaces may also discourage user adoption.
  • Inaccurate analytics results. Self-service queries can produce bad results due to incomplete data sets or data errors that aren't identified and fixed. There's also a risk of inconsistent information if separate users work with different versions of the same data or filter and prepare it for analysis in different ways. These issues can lead to confusion over BI findings and, ultimately, faulty decision-making.
  • Data security, privacy and ethics issues. The expanded data access that self-service BI provides can cause problems if strong data security protections and an effective policy on data governance aren't put in place. For example, unauthorized users could access sensitive data, or data could be misused in ways that violate data privacy regulations and corporate ethics standards.
  • Uncontrolled deployments. Self-service BI environments can become chaotic without some level of centralized monitoring and oversight by the BI team. If business units deploy BI systems on their own, inconsistent data silos, multiple BI tools and runaway costs can make it hard to scale self-service capabilities effectively and efficiently.

To avoid or overcome such challenges, an organization must start with a well-planned BI strategy, including a solid BI architecture that establishes technology and governance standards. Those foundational elements can help ensure that the organization has the right data sets and the infrastructure to support enterprise-wide use of self-service BI tools.

Additionally, a BI training program should educate workers not only on how to use self-service systems, but also on how to find the business data they need and create effective data visualizations, dashboards and reports. Meanwhile, the data governance policy should define key data quality metrics; data management, access and usage policies; procedures for sharing reports and dashboards; and how data security and privacy protections will be maintained.

Examples of self-service BI tools

Tableau, Qlik and Tibco Spotfire were among the first vendors of self-service BI and data visualization tools. Now, software vendors that once offered traditional BI tools for skilled analysts also provide self-service ones. In fact, consulting firm Gartner characterizes a modern analytics and BI platform as a set of easy-to-use tools that support the full data analysis workflow with an emphasis on self-service capabilities and augmented analytics features designed to help users find, prepare and analyze data.

Microsoft Power BI is another prominent self-service BI platform. Some of the many other self-service options available to users come from IBM, Oracle, SAP and SAS, as well as vendors that include AWS, Domo, Google's Looker unit, MicroStrategy, Pyramid Analytics, Sisense, ThoughtSpot and Yellowfin. Salesforce, which acquired Tableau in 2019, also offered its own BI software, but that is now integrated into the Tableau product line. Information Builders was a notable BI vendor, too, before Tibco bought it in early 2021.

Ease of use, sophistication and features differ for each vendor's self-service BI tools. For example, some platforms may be primarily used for simple dashboards and visualizations rather than more complicated data analysis and associated tasks, such as self-service data preparation, data discovery and interactive visual exploration.

Common features of self-service BI tools

Self-service BI software's core features include ad hoc query, data visualization, dashboard design and report generation capabilities. The software can be used as a relatively simple self-service reporting tool by executives and operational workers who only need to see specific information, while more advanced users can take advantage of its querying and design features to share analytics results with others.

Self-service tools also offer various other features, either as standard items or optional add-ons. Some of those items includes:

  • connections to different data sources for accessing relevant data;
  • data sharing and collaboration features;
  • data modeling and curation capabilities;
  • support for running BI applications on mobile devices;
  • data storytelling tools for creating narrative presentations;
  • mapping and geospatial data functionality;
  • data preparation and data catalog software; and
  • predictive modeling for what-if analysis of different scenarios.

Self-service BI trends to watch

Augmented analytics technologies are increasingly becoming core components of self-service BI platforms. They include natural language querying capabilities that eliminate the need to write queries in SQL or other programming languages, as well as AI and machine learning algorithms that can identify relevant data, explain the meaning of data elements, automate the data preparation process and suggest appropriate types of data visualizations. Gartner predicts that augmented analytics features will be "ubiquitous" in BI tools by 2022.

Other notable trends include the rollout of low-code and no-code development tools by vendors to simplify the process of creating BI applications, plus the addition of support for multi-cloud environments to BI platforms. Overall, the use of the cloud for BI and analytics is on the rise -- in its 2021 "Magic Quadrant for Analytics and Business Intelligence Platforms" report, Gartner said "the vast majority" of new spending on BI systems is for cloud deployments.

The Business Application Research Center (BARC), an analyst firm that primarily focuses on BI and data management software, said 2,865 users, consultants and vendors it surveyed in 2020 ranked self-service BI fifth on a list of the most important BI trends. Data discovery and visualization and establishing a data-driven culture, both closely related to self-service BI, were No. 2 and No. 3, according to BARC's "BI Trend Monitor 2020" report. Data quality and master data management was first on the list, while data governance was fourth.

This was last updated in March 2021

Continue Reading About self-service business intelligence (self-service BI)

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What is Self-Service Business Intelligence (Self-Service BI)? (2024)


What is Self-Service Business Intelligence (Self-Service BI)? ›

Self-service business intelligence (BI) is an approach to data analytics that enables business users to access and explore data sets even if they don't have a background in BI or related functions like data mining and statistical analysis.

What do you mean by self-service business intelligence? ›

Self-service business intelligence is defined here as end users designing and deploying their own reports and analyses within an approved and supported architecture and tools portfolio.

What is BI vs self-service BI? ›

self-service BI—a comparison. As a business owner or stakeholder exploring BI tools, the question for you remains—which of the two is right for your business? Traditional BI implementation is comprehensive and resource-intensive whereas self-service BI will mean a ready-to-use tool.

How would you define power bi as a self-service solution? ›

What Is Self-Service in Power BI? Self-service business intelligence (BI) is a data analytics method that allows business users (e.g., business analysts, managers, executives) to access and explore datasets without any experience in BI, data mining, and statistical analysis.

What is a self-service business? ›

Self-service definition: a fast and easy way for customers to find answers to simple questions about products, services, and policies. Key self-service channels include your help center, customer portal, and customer community. Self-service channels are a win-win for customers and companies.

Why is self-service important in business? ›

Customer self-service empowers customers to solve their own problems. And self-sufficient customers are happier customers. The best support ticket is the one that's never created. Instead of asking customer service reps to put out every fire, empower customers to find their own solutions whenever possible.

How do I build a self-service BI? ›

How to build a self-service BI strategy
  1. Define your goals. ...
  2. Assess your current situation. ...
  3. Identify your power users. ...
  4. Choose the right tools. ...
  5. Train your users. ...
  6. Monitor and adjust. ...
  7. Start your self-service analytics journey in the right direction.
Feb 14, 2023

How do you explain Power BI in an interview? ›

Mention some advantages of Power BI.

It allows users to transform data into visuals and share them with anyone. It establishes a connection for Excel queries and dashboards for fast analysis. It provides quick and accurate solutions. It enables users to perform queries on reports using simple English words.

What are the examples of BI solution? ›

These are five of the best examples of BI Solutions.
  • Microsoft Power BI. Many businesses begin their BI journey with Microsoft BI because it can be set up without any IT or data analytics support. ...
  • Dundas BI. ...
  • Grow. ...
  • Looker. ...
  • Board. ...
  • Increasing Business Intelligence.
Jan 18, 2019

What are the three types of self-service? ›

5 Types of Self-Service Customer Service Options That Can Boost Customer Experience
  • Customer Self-service Portals. ...
  • Mobile. ...
  • Chatbots and AI. ...
  • Kiosks. ...
  • Functional Automated Phone Systems.
Apr 11, 2019

What are the goals of self-service? ›

Self-service allows customers to get the help they need outside of business hours without the cost of hiring additional employees. The goal for providing self customer service in these scenarios is to streamline interactions—especially to resolve simpler issues—saving both customers and agents time.

What are three self-service examples? ›

For example, ATM's or Automatic Teller Machines to self-ticket purchases online as well as self-check-outs at hotels. Not to forget the self-pumping feature at gas stations.

What is another word for self-service? ›

On this page you'll find 3 synonyms, antonyms, and words related to self-service, such as: buffet, smorgasbord, and self-serve.

What are self-service tools? ›

Self-service BI tools allow users to filter, sort, analyze and visualize data without involving an organization's BI and IT teams.

What is self-service strategy? ›

A self-service strategy should consider convenience and speed, since today's customers require real-time responses, personalization which builds trust and loyalty, efficiency in order to reduce the administrative burden on the company, and automation that delivers effortless interactions.

What is self-service business model? ›

The idea at the heart of self-serve is that customers help themselves to the products they want to purchase, rather than going through a salesperson. Self-serve is responsible for the success of companies like Google, Facebook, LinkedIn and Atlassian.

What are four advantages of self-service? ›

Benefits Of Customer Self-Service

These include a better customer service experience, cost reduction, faster resolution times, higher productivity, and the ability to offer support 24/7.

What are the benefits of self-service to customers? ›

Gives customers faster access to the answers and information they need. Has customers performing tasks that are workarounds for problems in the product or processes of the company. Allows customers to control their experience by making changes without needing to call or email.

How do companies use business intelligence? ›

Where Is BI Used? Sales, marketing, finance and operations departments use business intelligence. Tasks include quantitative analysis, measuring performance against business goals, gleaning customer insights and sharing data to identify new opportunities.

What is common use self-service? ›

A Common Use Self Service (CUSS) kiosk is a shared kiosk offering airport check-in to passengers without the need for ground staff and can be used by several participating airlines.

What are two advantages of self-service? ›

Self-service kiosks are vital to multiple industries. Here's how they are beneficial to each sector: Retail: it gives customers more time to browse and purchase products without worrying about queuing. Banking: self-service ATMs offer quick cash withdrawals and balance inquiries without waiting in long queues.

What is full self-service? ›

adjective. A self-service shop, restaurant, or garage is one where you get things for yourself rather than being served by another person.

What are the characteristics of self-service? ›

Features of self-service:
  • Goods are displayed openly on shelves.
  • Customers are allowed to serve themselves with or without the help of the salesmen.
  • It encourages impulse buying because of the display nature of the goods in the shop.
  • Security men stand at the gate/door of the shop to check and prevent pilfering.

What is a sentence for self-service? ›

It will be a self-service restaurant, for the sale of light refreshments and snacks at reasonable prices. A number of schools also provide cafeteria-style self-service meals, the cost of the meal varying according to choice of items. They would normally be situated immediately over the petrol self-service area.

What are the three major types of business intelligence? ›

These are predictive analytics, descriptive analytics, and prescriptive analytics.

What is the use of self-service? ›

Customer self-service is proactive customer service that provides support for customers who want to find their own solutions. Rather than working with one of the company's customer service representatives, customers use self-service options to research and troubleshoot issues by themselves.

What are the 4 levels of business intelligence? ›

Business Intelligence consists of the following four stages: Data Collection, Data Storage, Data Analysis and Providing Data Access.

What are the 5 stages of business intelligence? ›

The five stages of business intelligence are Data Sourcing, Data Engineering & Analysis, Situation Awareness, Decision Making, and Decision Support. In terms of complexity, it can be Reporting, Analysis, Monitoring, Predicting & Forecasting, and Predictive Modeling.

What are the five styles of business intelligence? ›

Types of Business Intelligence Technologies
  • Dashboards. A dashboard is a data visualization and analysis tool that presents easy to read information regarding this data. ...
  • Reporting. ...
  • Cloud Data Services. ...
  • Predictive Analytics. ...
  • Data Discovery.

How can I improve my self-service? ›

Here are some tips to increase self-service adoption:
  1. Understand the current customer journey. ...
  2. Don't hide your light under a bushel. ...
  3. Make self-service the path of least resistance. ...
  4. Offer incentives and build loyalty. ...
  5. Create an identity. ...
  6. Speak their language. ...
  7. Keep it fresh. ...
  8. Consider the look & feel.

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