Why invest in a self-service BI platform?

Business Intelligence (BI)

Note: this article was first published on Oct. 3 2018, and was updated on Feb. 15 2019.

According to Analysts: Why invest in a self-service BI platform?

If you are a newcomer to business intelligence (BI) software, you have come at the right time. Brought down from the high towers of the IT department, data science tools are now accessible by all manner of users regardless of their technical proficiency. Data for all: this is the promise of modern BI platforms and self-service data analytics.

By 2019, self-service BI users—with minimal IT department involvement—will produce more analysis than data scientists and traditional BI systems, says Gartner. Since most small businesses do not have large IT departments, this should be music to the ears of small business leaders.

However, the question remains: is a modern BI tech investment worth it for small businesses?

In this Analyst Q&A, we’ll lean on the wisdom of Gartner thought leaders in the business intelligence market and learn what opportunities modern BI unlocks for small businesses.

15 Reasons why your small business should adopt self-service BI

Let’s set the scene: what are the converging factors that have given rise to the modern BI platform?

According to Gartner Analysts: “To meet the time-to-insight demands of today’s competitive business environment, many organizations aim to expand analytics with self-service capabilities. The associated insertion of analytics deeper into lines of business has significantly changed the traditional BI model and end-user requirements.”

Small Business Takeaway: Data grows at an explosive rate. But data’s greatest challenge is not volume—it’s velocity, and how fast it requires your small business to move. Reporting with spreadsheets that arrive a month after the decision was already made is not tenable. It has made necessary an evolution to easily consumable dashboards, put together not by IT departments, but by line of business users at the time and place of need. This is modern BI, and it represents an angle of entry for small businesses to adopt mature data analytics functionality.

What makes modern BI, well, modern? Please tell me this next generation reshaping goes far beyond “removing the headphone jack?”

According to Gartner Analysts: “The modern analytics and BI platform is characterized by agility, flexibility and ease of use, all of which are critical in every phase of the analytic workflow, from data source acquisition to execution of actionable insights. By contrast, traditional BI platforms are designed to support modular development of IT-produced analytic content.”

Small Business Takeaway: What most observably makes modern BI, modern, is the trappings of agile, flexible, and easy to use cloud software. As with security software or customer relationship management software (CRM), modern BI’s shift to the cloud grants small businesses access to a family of applications that were previously cost prohibitive. Modern, cloud BI is made affordable to small businesses via software-as-a-service (SaaS) subscriptions, it empowers remote teams with mobile apps on a variety of devices, and it’s easier to implement and scale than on-premise systems.

What improvements do modern BI platforms offer to small business decision making?

According to Gartner Analysts: “The innovation that comes with an agile and iterative modern analytic BI platform delivers the necessary building blocks to increase analytic maturity and derive value from data. This allows organizations to gain new, previously undiscovered insights with which to improve decision making. It also creates opportunities for differentiation and new revenue streams as new insights are packaged and extended to customers, partners and suppliers.”

Small Business Takeaway: A business acting without the insight of their data stumbles in the dark. For small businesses, which typically operate with limited resources, this is a vulnerable position. Modern BI illuminates historical performance data to help small businesses make smarter use of budgets, or create accurate portraits of their customers to eliminate time wasted on underperforming leads. It can also be applied in innovative ways across verticals and business functions.

A hallmark of traditional BI is the cloistered, IT “dark room” production of analytics reports; how does a modern BI platform improve analytics collaboration and make data science accessible to all users—not just IT?

According to Gartner Analysts: “[Modern BI architecture] address[es] changes to IT roles and responsibilities by shifting from a sole owner and doer mentality to enabler of wider access to data and collaborative content development.”

Small Business Takeaway: Leading a small business feels like playing a chess match with half the pieces: you must do more with less. But imagine the benefits if all your one-direction pawns were promoted to queens—a piece capable of moves spanning the entire board. Modern BI transforms every employee into a decision maker. Able to configure queries, make judgements on data insights, and communicate updates, your team takes action, while an organization unwilling to adopt self-service BI falls behind, waiting for the IT department to unscroll its knowledge.

How can small businesses avoid stalls or bottlenecks when implementing a modern BI platform?

According to Gartner Analysts: “Data and analytics leaders must take a holistic approach to platform modernization. They need to realize that, without appropriate change management, skills readiness, a data-driven culture, comprehensive data and analytics strategy, adding modern capabilities to a traditional, IT-led program will not yield the full benefits of a modern analytics and BI platform.”

Small Business Takeaway: To avoid stalls, educating teams on data fluency must predate BI implementation. Your small business team is likely accustomed to working as a jack of all trades, and this uniquely positions you to more easily onboard employees to a data driven culture and adopt BI tools.

Final takeaway or recommendation for small businesses considering investment in a modern BI platform?

According to Gartner Analysts: “Data and analytics leaders that fail to adopt modern platforms will be unable to respond to the faster pace of business, more sophisticated analytic requirements and to users’ voracious appetite for fast insights from more data sources than ever before. A traditional centralized and rigidly IT-centric approach cannot meet these new, time-sensitive requirements.”

Small Business Takeaway: Don’t sleep on investing in modern BI and data analytics; it is no longer only a big business priority. Sure, enterprises count their data assets in the billions, but your small business still is racking up millions of data assets—plenty to make data analysis not only viable, but necessary to differentiate amongst data savvy rivals in your market.


Gartner analyst commentary in this Q&A was derived from Gartner Technology Insight for Modern Analytics and Business Intelligence Platforms published September 2017 (Full report available to Gartner clients).

Buyers guide
Thomas LaMonte
Thomas LaMonte
Senior Content Analyst at Gartner
This buyers guide will help you understand the key features of business intelligence and analytics (BI) software, its benefits and challenges, information on who uses BI software, and industry trends.
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Thomas LaMonte
Thomas LaMonte
Senior Content Analyst at Gartner
Our Business Intelligence (BI) Analyst shares real-world case studies of BI implementations.