Select Page

The Great Divide: Traditional BI vs Self-Service BI

by | Jan 14, 2020 | Articles

Several years ago, Gartner said the business intelligence (BI) market had begun to shift away from IT-centric traditional solutions to modern self-service BI tools. In 2020 and in the years to come this change will likely continue with even more companies, both large and small, choosing self-service BI as a default go-to solution.

Traditional BI

First things first, what are the so-called traditional BI tools? Traditional or also known as the enterprise BI platforms, provided by vendors, such as Oracle, IBM and SAP, among others, are a stack of software designed for use in large organizations. Their function is to increase productivity and efficiency within the complex environment of enterprises.

Given an opportunity and financial means, enterprise BI tools are a great choice. They provide a full support and have all the required components at every stage of a BI project, whether it’s data modeling, ETL, governance and management, reporting, and most importantly security. The latter is especially important for some companies, as they don’t yet feel comfortable putting their information on a cloud server.

At the same time, however, traditional BI comes with several important drawbacks: a high cost of deployment, long-development cycles, complex interfaces, significant hardware requirements (especially when deployed on-premise) and inflexible data models. Furthermore, because of their size and complex nature, enterprise BI tools require a lot of financial spending and management. That is why, enterprise BI platforms are often managed by fully staffed IT departments.

What is self-service BI

On the other side of the fence there are modern, self-service BI tools, provided by the likes of Tableau, Qlik, Tibco, Microsoft and others. These refer to a set of BI tools that allow end users analyze their own data and design reports without having to depend on the work of IT departments.

Self-service BI tools help to fasten decision-making processes and promote collaboration between different departments by providing business users with a single source of truth within an organization. The key factor here is the ease of use and availability of data analytics to business users, who can understand and utilize BI tools even without a solid background in data science.

Pretty much all the drawbacks that traditional BI platforms have, their self-service counterparts have either already solved or are currently in process of solving. Software, such as Microsoft Power BI, is relatively cheap, user friendly, does not require special on-premise hardware, very intuitive and powerful. As for the issue of security, Power BI made significant improvements on its security two months ago.

Last year, Forrester recognized Power BI as the leading BI platform, giving it the highest score in strategy and market presence.

“You no longer need to be shy about using Microsoft Power BI; it’s a killer BI platform,” the report said.

The Future of BI

Obviously, self-service BI is not the silver bullet that can solve all your business problems. Some experts have mentioned that Power BI, for example, has its limitations when creating data models using multiple tables with complex relationships or when handling very large volumes of data.

Both traditional and self-service BI tools have their strengths and weaknesses; however, at the end of the day, it may come down to a couple of main things when picking which type of BI tools are better for a company – a nature of tasks at hand and, of course, finances.

The first argument is simple – a type of BI will be chosen depending on tasks which businesses need to do. At this point, most SMEs neither need enterprise-level BI for their business needs nor can they afford it. It would be akin to a three-person family moving into a 6-bedroom townhouse – a bit too excessive and expensive for their particular needs.

This leads to the issue of finances. For most companies, a simple cost-benefit analysis would reveal the advantages of using a self-service BI tool, which is cheaper and much faster to deploy than its bulkier, traditional counterparts.  

In an ideal world, the two types of BI tools could complement each other. However, at this point, with the development of self-service BI tools, their affordability and constant growth of data, more business users are getting into BI and analytics to solve their accelerating and ever-changing business needs. This would mean more agile self-service BI solutions with their ability to quickly provide insights without having to wait for IT staff to assist will dominate the BI market.

With the spread of self-service BI tools, a number of smaller BI providers is also growing. Choosing the right company to implement a BI solution in your organization is no easy task. If your company is looking for the combination of great service, expert knowledge and affordability, Centida might be a good fit.

Centida is one of these few specialized niche firms that follow the principle of “from finance practitioners to finance practitioners.” Our advisory services focus on the improvement of operational, day-to-day activities in finance and controlling departments.

Share This