The Value of Bringing Self-service Data Visualization & Data Discovery to Your Organization

Mobile Man / Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Microsoft’s internal help desk supports more than 105,000 clients – employees, vendors and contractors – across 5 international call centers. In an attempt to reduce call volumes, the Redmond tech giant deployed a number of self-service tools, including an online support website that offered chat capabilities and access to knowledge-based articles. As a result, calls were reduced by almost 16% at a savings rate of roughly $30 per call.

As the above example shows, there are substantial savings to be found using self-service tools to help users solve their own problems. And yet it’s not merely cost and efficiency savings that come as a by-product of self-service methods. In the realm of data, self-service software and tools offer users a lot of free reign, which is ideal for a line of work that requires imagination and creativity to be fully effective. Data discovery and data visualization are two areas that have seen self-service tools more recently enter the market.

In this post, we’ll explore the benefits that can be found in bringing these self-service tools into your company. To start with, though, let’s look at both data discovery and data visualizations to understand the impact they can have on a company.

Data Visualization

As we mentioned in a previous post (Data visualization: What is it? Why does it matter?), a picture is worth a thousand words. We are visual learners above anything else; interpreting, understanding and relating more strongly to visual stimuli than plain text. Data visualizations take this concept to new heights – providing an array of tools and techniques for users to create visual representations from their gathered data. When done right, the results can be extremely effective.

With the right data discovery and visualization tools, users are able to uncover interesting and unique patterns and relationships from the underlying data, and create striking visualizations to express those patterns through powerful, memorable visuals. But what makes these tools ‘self-service’? Well, as the name suggests, self-service Business Intelligence (BI) allows you to access all these features by yourself, giving you more flexibility and potential for customizations. Gartner predicts that by 2017, most business users and analysts in organizations will have access to self-service tools to prepare for data analysis. We say, why wait until 2017?

Data Discovery

Data discovery involves the process of interacting with your data through different data visualizations and finding business insights. More specifically, however, data discovery breaks down complex data collections into information that users can more readily understand and manage. This means it can turn what would otherwise be incomprehensible quantities of raw data into recognizable groups, sets and relationships. For data analysts, this is one of the first (and most important) steps towards finding meaningful answers in their data. By discovering and observing interesting relationships between data, users are also far more likely to get the imagination or inspiration they need to create the next data visualization.

You can do it now

“Going beyond the obvious impact to the data/information/analysis/insight/action paradigm that has dominated our sales analysis work for decades, I was struck by the potential for how [self-service analytics] will change how we work.”

Tad Travis, Research Director, Gartner.

Gartner aren’t the only experts that are acknowledging the potential of self-service analytics. A Forrester report noted the top enterprise business intelligence vendors are prioritizing investments in self-service, desktop and Cloud products that appeal to business users.

Control and effect

Being in control of a situation can give you an added feeling of confidence and motivation. Giving users the ability to access and control levels of information will get them more familiar with the tool over a shorter period of time, as users interact with the tool on a closer, more frequent level. To refer back to Gartner:

“The ability to rapidly associate disparate data sets without building a multidimensional data model will be quite liberating…they will grasp insights much faster because they are no longer constrained by physical analysis limitations, like dimensionality, aggregations and joins.”

In a lot of companies, technical teams – such as Business Intelligence and IT departments – will have to concentrate on creating the majority of reports themselves and satisfying end user report requests. With self-service tools, however, users are able to make decisions based on their own queries and analysis, which frees up the organization’s technical teams to focus on other IT initiatives and improve overall company efficiency.

Accessible to all

Self-service Business Intelligence allows users to generate their own reports and dashboards, regardless of their technical know-how. To accommodate for this, BI tools must be intuitive and user-friendly in their design, as complex and sophisticated user interfaces (UI) are likely to steer away potential users. Self-service data visualization and discovery tools must provide simple and easy access of users’ customized information without the need for extensive training.

ReportPlus, from Infragistics, takes the self-service aspect of data discovery and data visualizations a step further. With a dedicated mobile app, users can create stunning visual designs on-the-go on their smartphone or tablet. With next to no help from IT, users can combine multiple data sources, access dashboards and reports and connect to on-premises, local and Cloud-based data.

Soon the power of ReportPlus will also be available to desktop users, as we get ready to launch the brand new Windows version.

Desk bound enterprise users will be able to access the same powerful visual tools they are used to on their mobile, via the desktop. Best of all the desktop version comes with all of the enterprise grade benefits of the mobile versions – connect multiple data sources, built in security, the ability to customize and brand reports - and of course visualizations can be shared right across an organization no matter how or on what device they were created.

We are currently putting the finishing touches to ReportPlus for Desktop. Sign up online to be the first to be notified when it’s available.