Gone are the days when data scientists were the only ones to get their hands on raw data. Gone are the days when they were the only ones handling analytics. Today, with data growing in size by the minute, it is crucial for people on different levels within an organization to have both access to that data and the ability to process it in near-real time.
The rise of self-service analytics and BI
Recent findings by Gartner show that companies are indeed embracing self-service analytics and business intelligence (BI), and using it to make timely and relevant business decisions. This is now so much of a trend, in fact, that by 2019 Gartner expects business users to generate more analytics output than professional data scientists.
"The trend of digitalization is driving demand for analytics across all areas of modern business and government," says Carlie J. Idoine, research director at Gartner.
"Rapid advancements in [...] analytics and BI platforms are making it easier and more cost-effective than ever before for nonspecialists to perform effective analysis and better inform their decision making."
Give a man a report and you feed him for a day; teach a man how to create a report and you feed him for a lifetime
Simply put, self-service analytics is there to put data processing capabilities in the hands of people with little to no data science background. That is to say, anyone with decision-making powers in a company can get access to large amounts of data, and analyze and manipulate it in order to spot - and act on - business opportunities. Some of the key benefits include:
- Empowering your employees: People with various professional backgrounds can access and analyze complex data anytime they want
- Time efficiency: Data insights and business goals can be aligned on the go - no more waiting for your super-busy BI team to come back to you with the report you need
- Better insights: asking your marketing analyst to create a dedicated report does not mean, he will create several iterations with changing factors, such as date range or different KPI. You can play with the data to get different results
- Better decision-making: setting up your own dashboards and blending different data streams means you can analyse a problem from different angles and come to better conclusions quicker
- Increased transparency: by accessing the same data sets as everybody else across your organization, everyone has the same level of knowledge and insights. This paves the way for agile working culture with quick decision making
- No more blind spots: once everyone can access this data, there will be exponentially more insights and therefore potentially more value from the data due to different perspectives
The pressing need for self-service analytics and BI
It is becoming increasingly important - not only for CMOs, but also for people in different management positions - to understand data and the insights it can generate for the business. Everyone within the C-suite, whether that’s the CIO, CFO or the CEO him- or herself, needs to embrace data to assess their current course of action, and to predict possible future changes to their business approach.
The fact of the matter is that the job description of many has changed as a result of data playing an ever-larger role in their organizations. A Gartner survey among more than 3,000 CIOs, for instance, showed that “the CIO role is transitioning from delivery executive to business executive, from controlling cost and engineering processes, to driving revenue and exploiting data.”
The importance of data for business growth is quite obvious: For one, it democratizes the decision-making process as people across various departments can gain access to information that is timely, accurate and structured. Doing away with silos is the first step to generating meaningful insights.
Clearly, data can help boost efficiency and business growth, but it can also be quite the troublemaker. It is big (too big sometimes), scattered and messy. So, in order for companies to leverage their data, they would need to put together a strategy that outlines just how it is going to be collected, harmonised, shared and analyzed. And it seems many are taking this to heart.
Marketers need to embrace their responsibility
Gartner recently found out that many organizations see analytics and BI as a main differentiating technology, which is why they heavily invest in it. Analytics, in fact, currently takes the largest share of marketing budgets.
Providing self-service capabilities is the first step in creating a data-driven strategy and company culture. In order for employees to embrace this new technology, it is key to raise awareness of its benefits. "It's important to confirm the value of a self-service approach to analytics and BI by communicating its impact and linking successes directly to good outcomes for the organization," says Idoine.
Rishi Dave, CMO at Dun and Bradstreet, takes a pragmatic approach to the question of responsibility: “Data is no longer just the responsibility of somebody in the tech organization. Every CXO needs to know the data strategy for his/her company. In a fast-paced digital environment, it’s important to optimize every dollar that goes into your organization. Data can help you maximize those dollars by informing better decision-making and better alignment across the business, ultimately leading to faster growth in the new year.”
Times are changing
Back in 2015, Hubspot found out that marketers spend a third of their time in repetitive tasks - and according to the study, collecting, organizing and analyzing data was the most time consuming tasks of them all. 3,55 hours a week just for marketing data? We are more than sure: this time invested in a thorough analysis is time well spent. For collecting data by jumping between platforms? Well. No.
While self-service analytics and BI may not be at its peak yet, it is certainly making its way up, with organizations increasingly embracing the benefits of the technology - especially marketers and the growing MarTech stack make analysis easier and more efficient than ever before. The more access managers have to relevant data and the more time to analyze it, the more informed their business decisions will be. After all, driving growth is right at the top of the priority list.