Today’s self service BI tools and platforms offer a whole new take on Business Intelligence (BI) and Business Analytics (BA) that lets developers and business analysts build relevant applications (apps) rapidly and incrementally for business users and enables business users to participate in the application development process. Traditional BI solutions burden IT organizations with time consuming, costly development cycles that fail to deliver value for weeks, months and sometimes years. Well, that is a thing of the past. I have been taking an innovative approach and helping business users create and change their applications, delivering easy to use and valuable analytics, in a fraction of the time.

Not long ago, a BI project meant getting IT together with the power users and asking what the business users needed (inadvertently excluding the non-technical point of view). Next, IT and the power users would decide the best thing to do was provide access to data and turn over powerful reporting and query tools to end users who could do then their own analysis. The result: non-technical business users were overwhelmed with all the features and functionality of the tools and the complexity of the underlying data architecture. They then became dependent on technical users for their information and processing needs. The need for technical intervention became a true bottleneck, an inefficient process resulted and business units lost focus on improving the business process, agility and competitiveness.

In today’s world of devices and mobility, users have grown accustomed to using consumer apps outside the enterprise that help them develop insight (turbo tax shows the impact of line item decisions on the bottom line), make informed decisions ( helps decide where to eat, has an app to help decide the right car to buy) and measure performance (financial firms provide apps to research investments). They are capable of doing analysis outside the enterprise without understanding the technical tools and underlying data architectures.

It’s only logical that users would begin to ask for the same app experience inside the enterprise for the information and analysis they need.

The BI and BA applications that I prefer to use today are very different than the BI suite of reports, ad-hoc queries, downloads, excel spreadsheets and spread marts of just a few years ago. In fact, one app will often replace many reports, spreadsheets and downloads. By bringing together many areas of excellence – agile development, data warehousing, data quality, advisory services, knowledge management and collaboration – I like to believe that I am positioning myself as an innovator in the BI/BA app space. I call it the “consumerization” of business intelligence and business analytics.

Today’s applications consolidate multiple data sources (internal and external) and enable users at all levels of the organization to discover insights, uncover hidden trends and answer questions (some that weren’t even thought of when the app was being developed) through a simple, visual, guided and interactive experience. The experience is search engine-like, in that it is simple, intuitive and easy to use with little or no training, but the app is also task specific, purpose built and the experience is more oriented to developing insights.

From a senior marketing executive trying to assess a campaign’s effectiveness on customer churn to a doctor in Ethiopia comparing a blood sample to over 40,000 HIV treatments to predict patient response, creative analytic applications are helping people make a difference.

Across our sectors (Finance, Insurance, Communications, Media and Entertainment, or Life Sciences), in all functional areas (executive suite, finance, human resources, IT, marketing, operations, research and development, sales, service and support, supply chain or web) and in each business role (C-level and executives, line of business owners, service and support managers, associates, program managers) enabling the self service model with applications is helping clients increase market strength, efficiency, client satisfaction, productivity, on-time delivery and ROI.