It used to be understood in companies using legacy business intelligence that there was a gulf between “regular” employees and data teams. Running queries on stored data, generating insights, formatting these insights and disseminating them to stakeholders used to be the domain of data specialists — not necessarily the realm of the people asking questions in the first place, like marketers, managers and executives.
With hindsight, and all the new business intelligence (BI) tech available today, it’s easy to see the pitfalls of this model. The larger the gulf between non-technical employees and stored data, the less likely these individuals are to get the insights they need — let alone in a timely manner or with the ability to keep drilling down into the insight to uncover even more useful context.
But changes in BI on the market today are primed to affect these workflows, making data more accessible, understandable, convenient and useful. Here’s more on how.
BI Goes Beyond Reporting
As it stands, Gartner reports more than 87 percent of organizations have low BI and data analytics maturity — either depending on primarily spreadsheet-based analyses or standalone data analytics projects. A senior director analyst for the research firm notes that this lack of maturity “negatively affects every part of the analytics workflow” which makes it difficult for organizations to truly harness BI capabilities.
One of the major stumbling blocks associated with subpar analytics maturity has been “BI functionality mainly based on reporting.” But the very nature of BI reporting is changing — in a good way. Today, platforms like ThoughtSpot power self-service analytics capable of accommodating ad hoc queries and responding with interactive charts.
Static reports and charts handed down from the IT/data team are quickly becoming a thing of the past. Insights today allow users to keep drilling down into visualizations and asking questions, looking at information a different way. Users can now ask follow-up questions, too, rather than having to work within the confines of a prefabricated report.
This ultimately helps employees understand the bigger picture and use what they discover to make decisions that drive better business outcomes.
Turning Employees into Data-Driven Decision Makers
As mentioned above, self-service analytics turns non-technical employees into data analysts of sorts. Of course, professional data analysts are still an integral part of any organization, but they’re freed up to handle higher-order, strategic tasks when employees are able to query data themselves.
There are actually a few ways employees can go about asking questions of data these days. Search-driven analytics functions much like an online search engine, requiring users to type in their questions in natural language — and offering auto-suggestion to fill in the blanks.
The newest shift in self-service BI, however, is conversational analytics. That’s right, platforms today will return data insights based on spoken queries. In 2017, experts predicted one-fourth of enterprises would “supplement point-and-click analytics with conversational interfaces.”
This figure is only going to keep rising as conversational analytics continue to make BI that much more convenient for the everyday employee.
Enabling Faster Decision-Making
Better BI shaves down the amount of time it takes to get from point A (asking a question) to point B (sharing the answer with anyone who needs to know it). When interactive charts and dashboards are embeddable into regular workflows, everyone wins — these capabilities open up the lines of communication between colleagues and teams, helping everyone get and stay on the same page.
The end result should be smoother, speedier decision-making throughout an organization. Less hesitation and time-consuming back-and-forth dialogue. Less “going with the gut” and hoping it works out. Less waiting on reports to come in before a decision can be made. Get the picture?
Advances in BI are primed to affect the workflows of employees in these ways, and the bottom lines of businesses as well.