For decades, business users were able to analyze small sets of data independently using off-the-shelf tools like Microsoft Excel. Today, with the exponential growth in the amount of data being produced and collected by business users, every company has huge quantities of valuable data that exceed Excel’s maximum row limit and analysis capabilities.

As reports grow in complexity or depend on real-time data pulled from multiple sources, business users are forced to give up their independence and turn to the IT department to build reports for them using the more complex business intelligence tools. IT departments have become overwhelmed with these new tasks and responsibilities, and are unable to meet the needs of business users who want fast access to BI–turning an essential business process into a bottleneck.

With today’s market of BI tools, business users no longer have to hand over the reporting reigns to IT. Instead, they should be demanding ‘self-service reporting’ which will give them an environment to create customized BI reports with little to no IT involvement.

Here are three main objectives to look for in a self-service BI tool that will equip business users with the tools they need to be self-reliant:

1. Designed Specifically for the Business User: Think UI

The greatest barrier for most business users in adopting a BI tool is a complex user interface and over-designed functionality that was really developed to be used by a technical audience. The good news is the market now has self-serve BI tools designed with a non-technical audience in mind to help even a novice create and analyze their reports with ease and accuracy.

Tip: When choosing a BI tool, make sure you and members of your team of business users are able to successfully gather and analyze your data during your proof-of-concept (POC). The entire point of a POC is to isolate any technical issues and test out the UI to ensure that when the BI tool is actually in your hands, there won’t be any unforeseen technical needs that will leave you back to square one waiting for the IT department to help you out.

2. Great Data Visualization: Brains & Beauty

The purpose of BI is so business users can reach actionable conclusions and present responsive dashboards to decision makers–and a lot of this depends on smart and beautiful dashboards. Self-Serve BI therefore must allow business users to create their own analyses and visualizations so they can deliver information that is easy to understand and manipulate as well as graphically intuitive–all without going back to IT for every tweak and graphic representation.

Tip: This is a tricky step because some BI tools are just Excel 2.0 with beautiful colors, graphics, and visualizations, but no back-end business intelligence technology to ensure you can easily join data from multiple sources or handle a large enough amount of data to support your needs. So, while you should never compromise great data visualization, make sure the BI tool you are choosing has the brains and the beauty.

3. Fast to Deploy: Daily Reporting Is What Counts

To be truly self-serve, a BI tool needs to be quick and easy to deploy without dependency on an IT department. Although IT departments will most likely be involved during the selection, acquisition and governance stages of implementing BI in your organization, the greater bottleneck tends to lie in the day-to- day report creation and manipulation. Only when business units can deploy their own applications, tailored to their specific requirements and on their own timetable, can business users truly gain the independence they need to be responsive to their business needs.

Tip: Look for an out-of-the-box system which doesn’t require lengthy implementation or training, so you and your team can have it up and running quickly. Remember, during the POC you can smooth out most technical uncertainties, like making sure the daily report creation and manipulation is easy for you and their business users. This is what you will be using a BI tool for on a day-to-day basis, so it is crucial the process is seamless.

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