Why Self-Service BI Tools Alone Can’t Build Data-Driven Cultures

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In this special guest feature, Brett Hurt, CEO of data.world, discusses why self-Service BI tools alone can’t build data-driven cultures. Brett is the CEO and co-founder of data.world, a Public Benefit Corporation (and Certified B Corporation) focused on building the platform for modern data teamwork. data.world helps organization’s tap into their collective brainpower — from data scientists to nontechnical experts—so they can achieve anything with data, faster. Brett holds an MBA in High-Tech Entrepreneurship from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and a BBA in Management Information Systems from the University of Texas at Austin.

While 99% of executives want a data-driven culture, it’s hard to build one. Enter the Chief Data Officer (CDO), tasked with capturing and growing the value of data and analysis within his or her enterprise.

It’s not an easy job. True data-driven cultures aren’t built by buying expensive tools to empower the data elite. And while deploying self-service BI (business intelligence) tools is one important step in the right direction, the Chief Data Officer is on a journey.

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

Self-service BI is a State to Achieve, Not a Tool to Deploy

Last year, executive teams made scaling self-service analytics a top strategic initiative for BI. But when you look closely at the research, it’s not clear what exactly is being prioritized. Do enterprise leaders want to scale the practices and teamwork that make self-service BI possible? Or do they simply want to buy and deploy more dashboarding tools?

Make no mistake, reliance on tools alone to serve your business users’ data needs only meets half of the self-service analytics challenge. Self-service BI is a state, achieved when end business users analyze data on their own and make decisions with it. In this way, self-service BI is an aspect of Collective Data Empowerment, the thoughtful combination of tools, practices, and strategies that makes everyone more productive with data—not just your data elites.

That’s your true challenge as a CDO. Not buying software, but empowering everyone to work with data—true self-service BI / Collective Data Empowerment.

Real Self-service BI Requires a Holistic Approach

If your plan to roll out self-service analytics doesn’t include elements that reduce and address the natural friction of change management, you will miss the point of it entirely. If your goal is to truly empower your line of business people with data they can understand, use, and make decisions with, you must upgrade your company’s data practices whenever and wherever they get in the way of that mission. But take care, it’s human nature to resist change.

The top internal roadblock to the success of the office of the CDO is “culture challenges to accept change” — a top three challenge for 40% of respondents in 2017. –Gartner Chief Data Officer Survey, 2017

Consider using the Manifesto for Data Practices as the first step toward better data work within your company. You and your teams’ signatures will be a public commitment to improving data practices. For more tips, read our guide to Collective Data Empowerment.

The Cost of Self-service Analytics Failure

Bad data leads to bad decisions

Without adopting strong data practices alongside the self-service analytics tools, data and analysis quality suffers from input to output. To a line of business user on a deadline, using an old spreadsheet for a quick analysis might seem harmless. But that’s a trap. Bad, inaccurate, or misunderstood data causes people to make bad decisions. Just ask the Japanese government.

Japan’s government had given lawmakers an analysis of why foreign workers in the country are dropping out of an existing work training program, as it argues for the country to create two new categories of work visas. The justice ministry admitted last week that the data on those workers was incorrect, and blamed the problems on the handling of an Excel spreadsheet, the Japan Times reported. –Isabella Strenger, Reporter and Editor, Quartz

Bad decisions cost you the game

Seventy-nine percent of C-level execs fear disruption and displacement, and for good reason. They know the greatest data threats have more to do with their own ability to compete (54%) than security risk (46%).

Executives perceive growing threats from data-driven, highly agile competitors, including the big Tech Giants – Amazon, Google, Apple, and Facebook – as well as those competitors within their own industry who are demonstrating the ability to compete on data and analytics, especially those who have forged data cultures which give them agility and speed. –NewVantage Partners Big Data Executive Survey 2018

Being more data-driven is your–or your competitor’s–key to winning the market. While it’s not an easy journey, the rewards for building a data-driven culture through self-service BI are worth the struggles. In 2006, only 1 of the top-10 companies by market capitalization was data-driven. In 2017, data-driven companies took 60% of the list.

Inadequate practices make it worse

Because self-service BI tools are easy to use by definition, smart data practices that encourage employees to find approved data and reproducible analyses prevent bad decisions from being made. When those practices aren’t in place, more employees produce more analyses that are based on the wrong data or analysis.

With business units owning and managing their own data marts, the overall business loses control of the security of its data. The data tends to proliferate throughout the organization. Sensitive business data may end up sitting in spreadsheets and other BI tools on laptops and other devices, and it can become impossible for the organization to keep track of where copies of the data exist. Data origination and data lineage can become highly problematic. –Thor Olavsrud, Senior Writer, CIO

Don’t keep your data governance teams up at night. Dark data, rogue databases, and other forms of shadow IT hurt you as much as they hurt them.

Don’t Delay Fixing Self-service BI

Gartner said self-service analytics users will create more analysis than data scientists will by 2019. It’s 2019. Start your journey toward a data-driven culture through Collective Data Empowerment and self-service business intelligence as soon as you can.

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