Selecting and Deploying a Self-Service Data Visualization & Data Discovery Tool

Mobile Man / Thursday, August 25, 2016

After the buzz around “Big Data” being the future of the BI in the enterprise gradually dying down, the focus has moved towards the world of data visualization. While Big Data of course holds considerable value – allowing companies to glean new insights and make more informed decisions – it needs a standardized framework in order for us to gain a real understanding of it, especially on a large scale. Data visualizations are the method for expressing the insights found within Big Data.

“…progressive organizations today are using a wide array of data visualization (dataviz) tools to ask better questions of their data – and make better business decisions.”

Phil Simon

What the wide array of tools author Phil Simon is referring to is an area that is continuing to grow. One of the biggest variables between current tools in the market is whether they’re self-service tools: that is, individual users without technical experience or know-how can make use of the tool without the need for external assistance (providing they have the data!). For business intelligence (BI) tools, self-service functionality is a big selling point; offering users an added level of control, flexibility and customization over their work. Before you’re able to reap the rewards of self-service analytics software, however, you need to consider two important areas – the selection process and the deployment process. In this post, we’ll explore how you should go about both of these; what to consider and why.

Choose wisely

Like any kind of selection process, it’s vital to do your research. Both Big Data and data visualization have increased in popularity massively over the past couple of years, as Simon recognizes:

“IBM, Cognos, SAS and other enterprise BI stalwarts are still around, but they are no longer the only game in town. Today, an organization need not spend hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars to get going with dataviz. These new tools have become progressively more powerful… …they have made it easier than ever for employees to quickly discover new things in increasingly large datasets.”

As there is indeed more competition than ever, we should perhaps refine ‘research’ to ‘extensive research’ – there’s a lot to choose from, each tool offering their own impressive features. The good news is; we can get you started right now! Below is a checklist of some of the best features that current Business Intelligence tools have to offer:


No prizes for guessing this one! As we’ve already mentioned, the self-service aspect allows users to work on creating visualizations and dashboards in their own time, whilst still matching the functionality and capabilities of non-self-service tools. While more and more tools are realizing the benefits of self-service, it’s not a guarantee, so make sure you know if the tool you’re considering has self-service capabilities and a wealth of data visualization types to choose from.

The more, the merrier

Aside from the benefits of being able to work at your own, individual pace; the ability to collaborate with your coworkers is something to keep an eye out for as well. For that reason, BI tools that accommodate sharing functionalities should earn priority. Through sharing dashboards and visualizations that update in real time – whether its via email, dedicated apps or otherwise – teams can make data-driven decisions confidently together. Some tools also allow for exporting content to Microsoft PowerPoint, Word and PDF formats with annotations for additional comments and insight.

Gather data from anywhere

As we generate more data than ever, the locations for where it’s all stored are multiplying. Top-tier tools will let you connect to your data whether On-Premise, in local files or in the Cloud – be it OneDrive, Google Drive, Dropbox etc. Some companies should also look out for tools that support a range of data sources, such as SQL, Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

There are, of course, many other features that available business intelligence tools have to offer – some exclusive, some common. As such, we suggest analyzing what exactly you want to get out of a data visualization tool, and deciding what would be the best fit for your company.


Once you’ve found the right tool for you, the next stage is deploying it across your business. Like any deployment process, there are series of questions you should ask to ensure it will be effectively and efficiently deployed.

What about your users?

Before you begin the deployment process, you need to understand where it is you’re deploying to. As in, how will users be accessing these tools? More modern tools include mobile apps for users to work on and share their data whilst on-the-go. Think about their needs (and wants!).

On-Premises or Cloud?

This is a decision that companies have either recently made or should be making in the near future, as the Cloud plays an increasingly bigger role in the enterprise. Each deployment method has its own merits; however most major tools are more lenient towards the power of the Cloud. In terms of scalability and storage, the Cloud holds a definite advantage, but for those who list security as the number one priority, an On-Premises server may be the more appealing option.

Are we prepared?

One of the best advantages of self-service analytics is the fact that non-technical users need not be put off, as user-friendly UI’s make navigation and creation simple and straightforward. This means that virtually no user training is required, and instead users can jump straight in with the software.

What a data to be alive

Offering users the means to showcase their insights and findings in striking fashion, there is no better time to invest in the power of data analytics. ReportPlus gives you the power of data analytics combined with the flexibility of self-service software. It is a cloud-based or on premise data visualization service that allows you to visualize the metrics that matter most to your business in one place. Monitor the most important KPI’s and know the health of your business with real-time dashboards, create rich interactive reports and access data on the go with ReportPlus apps for iOS, Windows and Android, or on the Web.

To bring self-service data visualization and BI to your organization, try ReportPlus free for 30 days!