Published on

January 3, 2024

Business Intelligence

The 7 Signs Your Business Needs Self-Service Reporting

Frustrated by complex BI tools? Learn how to identify your need for self-service reporting, how to adopt it, & how it empowers faster data-driven decisions
Natasha Badger
Digital Marketing Manager
Business Intelligence

The ability to extract valuable insights from data effectively is a growing determinant of business success. Unlocking this value, however, requires the right tools – this is where self-service reporting comes into play.

Self-service reporting is a revolutionary approach in the realm of Business Intelligence (BI) that equips non-technical users with the knowledge and tools they need to transform from data novices to independent report crafters. This not only fosters data literacy across organizations but also speeds up the decision-making process with the power of real-time data access.

In this comprehensive article, we’ll guide you through the seven signs that indicate the need for self-service reporting within your company. We'll also explore its many advantages and introduce you to Akkio – a leading platform in the realm of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and BI, including self-service reporting tools.

Understanding self-service reporting

Imagine a shift of power in the data management domain, transitioning from the hands of IT professionals and data analysts to being accessible to any user within an organization. 

Self-service reporting is a solution that enables this transformation. In essence, it’s the practice of granting employees the ability to create, access, and customize reports and dashboards without requiring extensive IT or technical expertise. It puts the power of data into the hands of those who need it most, enabling them to generate real-time reports and gain actionable insights.

Even IT teams and data analysts can harness the capabilities of self-service reporting to streamline their workload. Unburdened by their conventional role, experts could occupy their time with strategic projects, problem-solving tasks, and essential system maintenance.

To ensure the operational effectiveness of self-service reporting, it's imperative to choose the right tools. Platforms like Akkio position themselves as the go-to platform for self-service reporting. They often handle organizational data separately from the primary IT infrastructure, adding an extra layer of security against issues such as outages, errors, or cyberattacks. 

These tools simplify the entire reporting process and reduce misguided decision-making while maintaining data confidentiality and integrity.

Types of reports that benefit from a self-service approach

Traditional report generation can be cumbersome and slow, causing delays in business-critical decisions. Self-service reporting offers flexibility and immediateness, empowering users to access and generate these necessary reports, promoting real-time updates, and facilitating the creation of customized views. This is particularly beneficial for the following report types:

  • Sales reports that keep track of products or services selling the fastest to inventory with efficacy. 
  • Marketing campaign performance reports to aid in identifying the most effective messaging routes and dictating future marketing strategies. 
  • Customer behavior reports that highlight trends that help optimize the customer experience. 
  • Financial reports to gauge the company's financial health, guiding fiscal decision-making.

Comparing self-service reporting to traditional BI reporting

Traditionally, IT or data professionals work with reports based on predefined templates and schedules. Despite being objectively effective, this conventional method is restrictive. It lacks flexibility, adds time pressures, and may exclude non-technical users from full data access.

On the other hand, self-service reporting breaks these barriers, encouraging agility and instant decision-making. It allows users to craft customized reports, facilitating direct interaction with data, bolstering data literacy, and freeing IT personnel for more technical tasks.

Self-service reporting tools are different  from traditional reporting solutions because they offer unique, reliable features designed for user empowerment and accessibility. These core characteristics are the blueprint for enabling end-users to independently generate insightful, action-oriented reports.

However, self-service reporting is not without its obstacles.

Challenges of self-service reporting and how to combat them

Data governance and accuracy issues are probable: 

  • An individual with insufficient training could misinterpret data. 
  • An absence of data usage guidelines could lead to compliance issues. 
  • Misuse or inadvertent leak of sensitive data may occur if access controls are not stringent. 

Tackling these challenges calls for strong data governance protocols, well-defined guidelines on data usage, thorough training of users, and secure access controls.

Additionally, to ensure data integrity and enable the full potential of self-service reporting, it is crucial to emphasize the roles of data curation and rigorous Quality Assurance (QA) processes. 

Data curation entails verifying data accuracy, completeness, reliability, and currency. Simultaneously, an effective quality assurance process involves implementing standardized testing procedures, meticulous checks for duplicates, and rigorous data accuracy audits to validate the data used in self-service reporting.

By diligently implementing these preventive measures, self-service reporting can provide transformative benefits, including real-time data access, democratization of data, reduced IT workload, improved resource management, and better-informed decision-making.

Characteristics to look for in a self-service reporting tool

  • A user-friendly interface that’s easy to use and intuitive. This bridges the technical gap, enabling even those without a technical background to interact comfortably with data, thus cultivating a data-driven culture within an organization.
  • Visualization capabilities to transform data into a straightforward, digestible visual representation. This attribute immensely simplifies the interpretation process, making complex data more accessible and insightful. 
  • Real-time data access to fetch and analyze data in an instant, which empowers users to respond swiftly to business dynamics.
  • Extensive report customization options to cater to the specific needs of different departments or roles within the organization, ensuring the data presented is relevant and useful.
  • High-grade security measures are a must to ensure that your data remains secure and inaccessible to unauthorized individuals.

Akkio – a cutting-edge platform designed with an unwavering commitment to user accessibility, regardless of technical proficiency – has all these characteristics and more! 

Akkio seamlessly blends sophisticated capabilities, such as real-time data analysis, advanced chart creation, and flexible routing of reports, in a secure and user-friendly interface.

7 signs you need to implement self-service reporting

Recognizing certain signals can empower businesses to pinpoint the precise moment to transition from traditional reporting methods to self-service reporting. These tell-tale signs typically indicate a growing need for more streamlined, flexible, and user-friendly reporting procedures.

1. You need quick analytics for proactive decision-making

Businesses seeking swift and precise analytics to drive proactive decision-making can leverage the benefits of self-service reporting. This approach enhances operational efficiency by granting stakeholders rapid access to critical reports. 

For example, a retail company can utilize real-time data to adapt pricing strategies in response to evolving market trends.

Self-service reporting empowers users with immediate access to data, facilitating quicker decision-making processes. It's important to note that the effectiveness of such reporting tools in providing real-time data analysis depends on their data integration capabilities. Akkio, for instance, boasts an extensive list of compatible tools.

It's beneficial for any organization, regardless of how good they are with technology and how many resources they have, to have a system that takes in data and turns it into useful information continuously. This setup:

  • Reduces the chances of people making mistakes when handling the data.
  • Helps the organization make quick decisions when the market is always changing.
  • Makes it easy for employees who aren’t tech-savvy to keep an eye on what's happening without needing experts to explain it to them.

2. Your IT capability is overloaded

A strain on IT capabilities implies that a business could greatly benefit from implementing self-service reporting. This holds true for both overloaded IT departments and companies with limited IT resources.

Self-service reporting effectively alleviates the pressure on IT teams by enabling non-technical users to generate their own reports. This empowers users and reduces the potential for human errors since reports are generated automatically.

Self-service reporting can also have a ripple effect, freeing up IT resources for other mission-critical tasks, such as system maintenance and security enhancements.

Businesses can further ease the load on IT resources by essentially outsourcing data stewardship to a self-service BI platform. This is particularly valuable as many organizations lack the necessary expertise and infrastructure for establishing a robust database. 

When data is securely stored within a BI tool, it serves as a resilient backup, safeguarding against problems like outages and cyberattacks. However, it's important to recognize that data sensitivity and confidentiality can introduce regulatory complexities, necessitating a nuanced approach to data management within the BI platform.

3. You require frequent reporting

Businesses with a need for constant or frequent reporting can gain substantial advantages through the adoption of self-service reporting. It will streamline the reporting process and enhance data accuracy.

4. Your reports quickly become outdated

For businesses operating in dynamic sectors that change rapidly, self-service reporting becomes even more crucial. By providing real-time access, these platforms can ensure that businesses base their decisions on the most recent and relevant data.

5. Different departments need highly customized reports

Often, within large organizations, individual business units operate autonomously, each with unique reporting requirements. Self-service reporting introduces a valuable level of versatility for these users by enabling them to tailor reports to their specific needs.

For example, a marketing team can utilize self-service reporting to concentrate on key metrics related to campaign performance and customer engagement. By customizing their reports, they can extract insights that directly impact their strategies and decision-making processes.

This fosters efficiency, autonomy, and alignment with specific goals, allowing each unit to focus on the insights and metrics most relevant to their functions, such as campaign performance and customer engagement, ultimately contributing to the overall success of the organization.

6. You need highly visual reports

Self-service reporting tools provide businesses of all sizes with the ability to leverage visual insights. The key characteristics of highly visual reports include:

  • Accessibility: Visual representations of data, such as charts, graphs, and interactive dashboards, make complex information more accessible and understandable for a wider audience.
  • Quick understanding: Visualizations provide an immediate understanding of data trends and patterns. Users can grasp key insights at a glance, reducing the time and effort required to interpret raw data.
  • Interactive exploration: Dashboards offer interactive features, allowing users to explore data dynamically. They can drill down into specific details, filter data based on criteria, and perform ad-hoc analyses to answer specific questions, all without the need for technical skills.
  • Alignment with goals: Visual reports and dashboards can be tailored to align with the goals and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) of different teams and departments. This ensures that the data presented is directly relevant to specific business objectives.
  • Real-time monitoring: Many self-service reporting tools offer real-time or near-real-time data updates. This allows businesses to monitor critical metrics and respond swiftly to changing conditions or emerging opportunities.

By offering user-friendly, interactive dashboards, businesses can unlock the power of their data, regardless of the level of technical expertise within the organization.

7. You need to scale your business in a cost-effective way

When a business seeks cost-effective scalability, the adoption of self-service reporting can prove to be a game-changer. Traditional setups often come with substantial upfront expenses, such as database hosting. However, the integration of an AI-based self-service business intelligence tool like Akkio can eliminate these financial burdens. This allows enterprises, regardless of their size, to harness the power of data-driven decision-making without incurring additional costs.

This approach not only streamlines the budget but also diminishes the demand for additional IT resources, making it a viable and efficient solution for enterprises with ambitions to expand their reporting capabilities in a cost-effective manner.

In a nutshell, if your business is exhibiting any of the above cues, it might be time to explore what self-service reporting tools, such as Akkio, can bring to the table.

Get started with self-service reporting with Akkio

Meet Akkio, a dynamic BI platform that seamlessly integrates self-service analytics and Machine Learning (ML). In the realm of self-service reporting, Akkio offers a comprehensive suite of benefits, including:

  • A user-friendly interface that ensures a smooth experience even for users with limited technical expertise.
  • Robust security measures to maintain a vigilant guard over your data. 
  • Rich data visualization features that make your data come to life. By bridging data with visual interpretation, the platform makes the complexity of your data comprehensible and insightful.

Designed to cater to all user groups, Akkio fosters data democratization. Whether you’re a seasoned data analyst or a marketing pro, interpreting data and generating reports becomes a simpler exercise for everyone in the organization with the use of Akkio’s Chat Data Prep and Chat Explore features.

Chat Data Prep

The journey of self-service reporting commences with data transformation. With Akkio's Chat Data Prep, you’re no longer alone in this critical phase. It's like having a conversation with your data.

You can combine columns, summarize records, translate languages, convert formats, perform complex calculations, and more!

A demo of Akkio’s Chat Data Prep feature.

All you have to do is:

  1. Create a new project.
  1. Upload your dataset or connect to your data source.
Connecting to a data source
  1. Click on Chat Data Prep.
Working with Akkio’s Chat Data Prep feature.
  1. Write the action you want to perform on your dataset – no need for complicated terminologies – then click Apply Transformation if you’re happy with the result.
Modifying the dataset using Akkio’s Chat Data Prep feature.

Just like that, you can easily preprocess your dataset however you want.

Chat Explore

With Akkio's Chat Explore feature, interaction with your data goes beyond the surface. To uncover hidden insights and foster a deeper understanding of your data, all you have to do is just ask. 

A demo of Akkio’s Chat Explore feature.

You can easily interpret complex data and generate strategic reports that add value to your business – here’s how:

  1. Once you're done with data cleaning and preparation, go to the Explore tab.
  1. Ask whatever question you want to get a quick answer to, or ask for a visual representation of certain insights you’re interested in from your data.
Using Akkio’s Chat Explore feature to get quick insights from the data.

You can keep asking for more clarification on the result or ask for other insights without needing any technical knowledge.

Incorporating machine learning

Akkio's standout feature is its seamless integration of machine learning into self-service reporting. This means that as your data evolves and changes over time, your AI model adjusts accordingly, ensuring that your predictions and forecasts remain both relevant and accurate. 

Even in a rapidly changing business environment, Akkio keeps you in the loop and enables you to continue making well-informed decisions. Akkio achieves this by combining sophisticated technologies like ML with user-friendly interfaces and compelling visuals. 

Generative charts, reports, and dashboards

Akkio's capabilities in generating charts, reports, and dashboards transform the complexity of data exploration into user-friendly and insightful visualizations.

Using Akkio, you’ll be able to create:

  • Scatter plots for demonstrating correlations.
  • Line plots for delineating trends.
  • Area plots for visually comparing quantities.
  • Complex charts such as histograms, pie charts, heatmaps, and box plots. 

Each visualization method offers a unique window into the patterns and insights within your data, bringing abstract numbers to life.

Take, for example, a sales report. An intuitive bar chart simplifies the task of comparing product performance, while a vibrant heatmap provides a dynamic view of sales activities across regions. 

Or consider the quality of customer service, where the use of a box plot could reveal the spread and skewness of customer response times – an essential metric when assessing service standards.

Beyond assisting in data interpretation, Akkio provides the option to route reports directly to connected live data sources to ensure that data is shared and understood across all sectors of the organization.

This shared understanding enables faster, more reliable decision-making that is rooted in real-time insights where transparency and collaboration thrive.

Take control of your data with Akkio's self-service reporting

The importance of self-service reporting in the current business environment is undeniable, as is its transformative potential. It's an essential tool for swift analytics and real-time decision-making, enhancing business efficiency and minimizing costs. More than that, it's about scaling your business strategically with control, agility, and precision.

Akkio emerges as a powerful solution in the realm of self-service reporting. Its intuitive, user-friendly interface, along with a unique chat-with-your-data feature, paves the way for a seamless interaction with your data. Further extending its horizon are advanced data visualization capabilities, transforming raw data into visually compelling, easy-to-understand formats.

So, why wait? Embrace the future of data reporting with Akkio today, and revolutionize the way you leverage your data!

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