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Wanna Be Agile? Give your users ‘Real Business User Self-Service’

Posted on: 09-01-2017 09:46:031310


I wonder whether the need to close gap between the business and IT will reappear as a top concern for CIOs in 2017? This issue has been included in various studies over the past few years, yet, when I look around me, the gap between the business and IT is still wide. For many standard reports, it can still take months for the business users to specify what they need and for the IT experts to build and test what has been asked for.

In operations, where the business need answers fast, they often just avoid asking IT to build their report requests. The answer would take too long and they would have to specify and present a business case before the request would even be touched. Luckily, and I say this with a pinch of salt, they can download data from the ERP system and build their own version of the truth in Excel…

So why do we often find that many organizations are desperately trying to become more agile whilst simultaneously pursuing ventures to close the gap between the business and IT? Because the world of business management and operations changes at a very high speed and employees need access to this information as it happens. Unfortunately, most IT-departments will then struggle to respond to queries at the same pace as they come in.

Self-Service BI

That is one of the major reasons why business users ask for self-service analytics. It allows users to open their eyes and ears simply so they can observe. believe that the demand for self-service analytics is white hot and growing whilst traditional BI dashboards is experiencing a fall in trade. This same article also states that fiscal responsibility for these applications is shifting from IT and towards the business. Does this go fast and easy? Not necessarily. One of SAS’ articles mentions “two opposing forces”. On the one hand the business wants the freedom and flexibility to access information without assistance from IT, and on the other hand, IT wants to control the creation and distribution of BI assets.


I do understand both sides. The IT side fears chaos and wild growth where everybody starts building their own reports, without a proper understanding of the hugely complex data structures that underpin their systems. Yet, as already stated, the business requires agile and fast responses to critical questions as and when they come in.

Organizations need to quickly create new strategies that will resolve these critical issues. Companies that will not be able to cope with this challenge will lose out to those that can. You better make sure you’re one of the few that can.

Real Business User Self-Service

Employees therefore need access to “Real Business User Self-Service” (RBUSS). My definition of RBUSS is:

“A business user should be able to answer 90% of their business-related questions in less than three minutes, without the help of IT.”


Giving them a set of cubes with predefined fields from which they can choose is insufficient when more than 60% of the questions in operations have an ‘ad hoc’ character. ‘Ad hoc’ meaning ‘Yesterday I didn’t know I would have that question today, but I need the answer before tomorrow’.

RBUSS is more. It gives people a user interface in which they can formulate their question in business language, without the need to know the technical details of the data. The system is fed by an information system that yields actionable insights. Does it have to be information that is updated and refreshed every second? In most incidences, no, but when it does you will find that this information is only useful to a very small part of the organization. Most of the user community will find that information that is less than a day old will suffice. The information system that provides the data for this analysis, can then give a complete picture of all business processes whilst breaking down functional silos. One single version of the truth is now an attainable.

This scenario provides the best of both worlds. IT delivers the single version of the truth and is then able to monitor usage, security, and so forth. And the business has the possibility to get its answers fast and work autonomously from IT.

Is such a RBUSS system a unicorn? A creature you have heard of but don’t believe they exist. No, they do exist, RBUSS systems anyway, but they are very scarce. If you’d like to know where you can find such unicorns, I’d love to connect with you and share thoughts and ideas concerning this topic.

Jacques Adriaansen
Business Improvement Thought Leader


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