Self-service analytics (SSA) tools allow users to create data visualizations, small-scale applications, and data pipelines without the need to know how to code. It’s been a great evolution to see large communities of spreadsheet power users take their ideas and analysis to another level of maturity with the help of self-service tools.
One application for these tools I particularly love is pressure-testing new ideas. The ability to quickly create something tangible makes these tools a powerful way to get a new idea in front of stakeholders and assess its value. This pressure testing process can happen rapidly going from idea to prototype in days, not weeks. Getting feedback from your stakeholders is fast and easy, so you know when to keep iterating or move on to another idea.
Self-service analytics: advantages
Low barrier to entry
SSA tools are accessible to everyone, not just data professionals. Removing the technical barrier of coding and empowering subject matter experts to build independently is a powerful way to explore new ideas.
Build without relying on upstream work
You don’t need to rely solely on well-curated and perfectly clean data to get a new dashboard up and running. Throw data from your database into these tools and start building. If the prototype of your new dashboard excites your stakeholders, continue to iterate and develop your solution.
Once you’re ready, publish your new dashboard and share it with your stakeholders. Be sure to ask your stakeholders about their experience using the dashboard. If you can, observe them using your dashboard to see what’s intuitive and what’s not. These human-centered design techniques will help you quickly determine the value of your dashboard.
Self-service analytics: pitfalls
Revisit dashboards periodically
We all have backlogs and demands on our time, and it can be tempting to leave a self-service dashboard running indefinitely. After all, it’s working, so why mess with it? Check in with your stakeholders and revisit your dashboards periodically to identify which of your most valuable and stable builds could benefit from added rigor and customization.
Host dashboard showcases or demo days
Due to the freedom SSA tools bring, isolated islands of users can crop up. This could be a small team of analysts solving localized problems, a solo power-user that has transitioned from Excel to more modern tools, or users that don’t know a community of data practitioners exists beyond their team. Isolation keeps ideas, recognition, and collaboration from flowing both in and out of these groups. Holding a showcase or demo day to encourage people to share their newest dashboards is a great way to get recognition for users and infuse your community with new ideas.