What is BI Self Service?

A lot of the buzz around Qlik Sense is “Self Service” capabilities. Some people assume from that buzz that QlikView is  not so good with Self Service. But what is BI “Self Service” anyways?

The goal of BI is to provide answers and insights to the business. Those answers come from interacting with content, not creating content.  A reasonably well designed QlikView application used by someone with a small amount of training has always provided great Self Service.  That is, if you define Self Service as a business user being able to quickly answer new  business questions without engaging a developer.

Let’s look at an  scenario. The Canadian government has proposed a 10% tariff on the very class of goods you sell.  What might this tariff mean to your company? Quick — how much do you sell to Canada? If you pass this increase directly to the customer, how many customers do you need to talk to?

Do you require a chart of “Sales by Country” to answer this question? If you can select Country=Canada somewhere in the app, can you use the Total line from the “Sales by Year” chart to answer the question?

What if there is no Country listbox? Do you need to create one? Or can  you use associative search, a search object, advanced search or a Country dropdown in a chart to make the selection?

QlikView can answer a broad range of questions with just a few charts and listboxes.

I’m not knocking Qlik Sense. The same excellent Self Service capabilities are available there with the added bonus that content creation, when required, is much easier. Plus you get consistent implementaion of current selections and global search.

I  do think that an opportunity is overlooked if we first imagine Self Service as content creation rather than interaction.   I enjoy teaching the two day QV Designer class to business users.   However, I think many  of the students may be better served by a two hour class that focuses on how to navigate QlikView well.

I don’t think of a “Power User” as someone who creates charts but rather someone who knows how to search, select and  associate.   A Power User doesn’t write a Set Analysis expression. They make a series of selections and store it in a bookmark.

What comes to your mind when you think “Self Service BI”?



5 thoughts on “What is BI Self Service?”

  1. I totally agree with your concept of power user in QlikView. The capabilities and depth of a simple search box can be infinite, and it’s amazing what kind of stuff such a user can do, given a well designed “guided-analytics” document.

    Now and then users ask questions that you had not thought of when designing the document. These usually start with “I need a new sheet, object, or button”. In my experience, it’s surprising how many times the answer can be just a clever search and a series of selections.

    I wouldn’t dismiss the set analysis for powerusers though. But if that’s too much, maybe it’s worth adding some dollar-sign functions and training to the mix. You might get business users that “wow” their bosses with things like: =$(=ParetoPosition) $(=AvgSalesPerMonth)

    1. It looks like WordPress does not like QV search syntax… 🙂

      The expression above should have read ” = customers belonging to the top 20percent, where this year’ AverageMonthlySales is lower than last year’s”.

  2. Well said. What comes to my mind when people say “Self Service BI” is that customers can get the impression that they do not need to worry about data modelling, ETL, etc… or developers!!

  3. I agree Rob that a lot can be achieved with a well designed QlikView app.

    One thing that I have come across in terms of self service is the controller, familiar with SQL queries, with a million different questions from various tables that are to large to add all into one app. Here we are building a set of well structured QVDs that are easy to combine in Qlik Sense without a need for advanced scripting.

    The good stuff then gets recreated in QlikView for the ordinary business user.

  4. QlikView is a great tool, and we use it a lot in my company. But it is not close to make Self Service possible, and Sense is only a tiny bit better.

    Self Service (Do It Yourself = DIY) is when users are given access to governed reports with sets of attributes and metrics, which will work together in any combination, and with filter possibilities on all attributes.

    Example. In my second BI application, I have +500 attributes and +2500 metrics. In sales DIY report I give end users access to (only) 100 sorted attributes and 150 sorted metrics followed by filters. It is clear, that 100 attributes is not shown in a long list, but sorted in folders customised for the specific DIY report.

    The attributes and metrics gives the end users a infinity of combinations. In theory faculty(250), which excel nor google can calculate. Faculty(170)>10^300. Filters multiplies that.

    Well design, and I will claim that mine DIY report is, this report gives the answer to the ‘Canadian’ example within one minute, including any subquestion (which products/suppliers/brands/months/costumers, categories, subcategories what-so-ever sells).

    All attributes and metrics remain in own folders, and are in use across several DIY reports. Attributes and metrics are maintained one place, so example a changes so Sum(Sales) will affect +1000 reports.

    Ohh, and of course, the DIY report offers a lot of visualizations.

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