“Self-Service Analytics for Everyone” ... Please Explain!

Andy McCartney's picture
 By | January 27, 2016
in WebFOCUS, apps, data discovery, data exploration, InfoApps, InfoAssist, Self Service, Self-service, self-service analytics, tools, webfocus
January 27, 2016

The Jason's Deli self-service kiosk.

It is a simple enough positioning statement:  "Information Builders provides software that enables self-service analytics for everyone".  Or is it?  Perhaps that sentence needs a little exploration and explanation.  
 
Self-service within the context of business intelligence and analytics has been trending of late, and the term can be used to describe a variety of scenarios.  To some, self-service is where a user, whether technical or non-technical, is able to attain analytical outcomes via the use of a software 'tool', starting with nothing more than a data source.  To others self-service is being able to attain analytical outcomes via the use of a custom made 'app', that has predetermined functionality and access to one or more data sources.  
 
Some might say that the 'app' description is not truly self-service, as skilled resources were needed to create the app in the first place. But conversely someone also needed to create the tool in the first place using skilled resources. What really matters to the business is whether the user of that software interface is able to attain analytical and business value from their interaction.  
 
To divert slightly, I went to lunch today at Jason's Deli, which has 240 locations across 28 states.  The line was quite long, and all I wanted was a soup and salad.  Being a little ADD, I was about to abandon ship when I noticed a kiosk by the counter, and took a photo (see top right).  
 
I could bypass the line and order, pay and serve myself soup, salad and drinks  - absolutely and utterly perfect for my immediate need.  Throughout my clam chowder I thought more about the many types of self-service kiosks in the world, and the apps that drive them, such as: airport check-in, banking ATMs, event registration, hotel foyer check-in, tourist information,  in-store retail price check, and others.  Some are transactional, some informational, but all designed for providing contextual value in a self-service environment.  
 
Tying all this back to Information Builders, and how to provide analytics software that enables self-service for everyone.  Well for many years, millions of users around the world have benefitted from self-service apps created by WebFOCUS, known as InfoApps.  They are highly interactive, analytical applications custom designed for non-technical users.  Many of them feature highly parameterized content so that users can select views, filters, sort fields, measures, output formats, drilldown paths, chart types and many others.  The key is that they are immediately intuitive, and can be customized by users to enable the asking and answering of analytical questions.  Users could be employees inside your business, or other stakeholders beyond the firewall including partners, vendors, customers, patients, students and citizens.  But, is that still fulfilling the needs of everyone?  
 
An increasing number of business users are wanting to go beyond their apps and fulfill additional analytical needs themselves. They are demanding a flexible self-service capability for immediate data access, flexible analysis, and the leveraging of their findings.  Self-service reporting and analysis tools have actually been around for a couple of decades, where users such as business analysts have been able to create reports, charts, exports and analytical documents via an end-user tool.  Information Builders' created InfoAssist as an end-user reporting and analysis tool around seven years ago, and many thousands of users have been able to fulfill new/additional analytical requests by themselves.  
 
The recent surge of interest in self-service analytics is due to the introduction of data discovery tools.   There are business users who do not start with a specific analytical outcome in mind, but who would like to ask questions and explore their data for trends, patterns, correlations and new insight. Data discovery tools enable non-technical users to learn and execute data exploration activities that used to require an analytics expert. Information Builders has extended its self-service reporting tool with a data discovery capability, which is now called InfoAssist+.  It supports complete data discovery and visualization of business data, running against a high-speed data sandbox and many other data sources, often combined to create new data contexts.  
 
So now everyone in your organization’s universe of users can be satisfied with self-service analytics offerings, either via apps or tools, sometimes both.  And wouldn’t it be a significant culture shift if the previous consumers of apps, who now also use tools, could actually become authors of apps themselves.  Now that sounds like a self-fulfilling prophecy and the topic of a future blog post!  
 
For more, please join us and our special guest, Ace Hardware for a Feb 16 webcast on how to deliver self-service analytics for everyone