The promise of self-service analytics is that users of all technical skill levels will be able to dig into their data in ways that make sense to them, without help from IT or data experts. The modern iteration of this principle is analytics infused into workflows, where the right bit of actionable intelligence is presented to the right user at the right time and place, tied to the best action they can take based on this information. It’s a fusion of form and function that has the ability to supercharge processes of all kinds and evolve businesses.

According to a recent survey by Harvard Business Review (HBR), 77% of companies said intelligence from analyzed data was important to their business success. To facilitate this success, data experts must go deep into datasets and ask the complex questions that will help evolve businesses and unlock new opportunities — this is often referred to as “ad hoc analysis.” But these game-changing revelations are useless if the people who need the results can’t access or understand them.

That’s how ad hoc analysis plus the right BI and analytics platform squares this circle. To understand this relationship, let’s dig into why companies aren’t doing as much of it as they could and how the right BI platform can empower data teams and business users to get more out of the data.

Infused analytics delivers strategic value from data even when initial attempts fail.

Learn how!

Why companies avoid ad hoc analysis

Many businesses realize the value that ad hoc analysis can bring to the table when it comes to helping a company evolve, but still don’t put time and resources into it. Often this is just because data teams are too busy!

Check any job listing site and you’ll see coders with data skills are in high demand, but graduates with the relevant backgrounds are in short supply (to say nothing of seasoned data experts). Departments with high demand for analytics are likely already using BI tools or ceaselessly trying to get the right one implemented: The 2021 Wisdom of Crowds® Business Intelligence Market Study from Dresner shows that operations, executive management, and finance departments all typically lead when it comes to BI implementation.

These are all departments where daily, granular intelligence derived from analyzed data is necessary, but also where ad hoc analyses can assist in strategic decisions and seeing the big picture. The right self-service, intelligence-infusing platform can help protect data specialists from being inundated with an unending flood of basic questions (“What were our revenue totals for North America for 2020?”) so they can focus on more high-value analytics projects.

If your company isn’t engaging its data team for this kind of evolution-driving work, it’s likely because you lack the right BI platform to empower users of all skill levels. The HBR report showed that 51% of respondents were still going outside their workflows to look for analytics insights, and almost 20% were going back to IT with every new query. Without a robust platform that infuses insights into workflows, data teams are stuck running around putting out fires and serving up lower-value reports (a lesser kind of ad hoc analytics) to countless users. This is not what you hired them for! 

Putting ad hoc intelligence back into workflows

The right analytics and BI platform doesn’t just allow you to get more information from your company’s data stores, drive smarter decisions, and open new revenue streams — it transforms every aspect of your business that it touches.

We’ve already established how a robust platform that infuses analytics into workflows frees up your data team from doing little one-off tasks for every team. It also empowers those teams to answer more and more of their own questions without needing technical skills, even serving up the information they need without them asking for it, right where and when it’s most valuable. The platform also shows teams what they don’t know but could — with ad hoc analysis. Now, when they ask the data team for something, everyone involved knows it’s of higher value. 

A perfect example from Sisense customer Skullcandy involves using Python code to perform sentiment analysis on a collection of customer reviews to better understand how customers feel about the products. This helped Skullcandy with customer service interactions, warranty budget planning, and ultimately changes in some product designs. This is the power of ad hoc analytics!

Furthermore, a BI platform serves as the missing link between the data team and the users who need the deeper intelligence they’ve uncovered. Once the ad hoc data analysis is complete, the data team can infuse the results back into the workflows of the people who requested them, presenting the information in a way that can be examined, explored, and understood by the less technical, without any additional help from the experts. 

Answer big questions, do big things

Running a business is a collaborative act. Even at a four-person startup, where everyone is doing multiple jobs, no one person can do everything or answer every question. The evolution of BI from IT driven to self-service to analytics infusion has allowed nontechnical users to get more and more from their data without IT/data team assistance, but that just frees up these data experts to do more game-changing stuff with their skills. 

The right analytics and BI platform helps users of all kinds go further on their own and shines a light on where ad hoc analysis could really take the business to the next level. The data team springs into action, performs the analysis, and routes the info right back to whomever needs it, in a way that makes sense to them. That’s the new promise of BI — unlocking the power of ad hoc analytics, easily.

Infused analytics delivers strategic value from data even when initial attempts fail.

Learn how!

Scott Castle is the VP of Strategy at Sisense. He brings over 25 years of experience in software development and product management at leading technology companies including Adobe, Electric Cloud, and FileNet. Scott is a prolific writer and speaker on all things data, appearing at events like the Gartner Enterprise Data Conference, Data Champions, and Strata Data NYC.

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