The Myth of Self-Service Analytics

Recently, I read an article titled ‘The Myth of Self-Service Analytics’ ( which discusses the danger of jumping on magic solutions based on colourful software tools which, supposedly, can enable everyone and anyone to analyse information and business data. My favourite gripe is about Self-service BI because there is more than meets the eye when it comes to this topic. There are several points to keep in mind while discussing Self-service BI because they are, as usual, not black and white but grey.


  1. BI companies want to sell their Self-service BI (SSBI) tools as widely as possible.
  2. The target group for SSBI tools is the management level. Data analysts and information professionals are preferably left out of the sales process as they understand what is really needed to make sense of data and present information in an appropriate manner.
  3. Self-service BI can NEVER work without a data warehouse of some kind. This means that the whole concept is, to a point, a deception. “Here is your tool, here is your database with 25 thousand tables. Give me sales figures and a forecast for the next year tomorrow.” It goes without saying that this is an unrealistic scenario.
  4. SSBI can work for superusers who work with a set of well-defined data. Nevertheless, there is always a risk of more than one version of the truth under those circumstances. Of course, that danger is also present when data scientists and information professionals are involved but the risk is greatly reduced.
  5. SSBI has been around for a long time but not necessarily under that name. DSS – DW – OLAP – Analytics – SSBI. These are not necessarily exactly the same concepts but there is a very big overlap. To a certain extent making users self-sufficient has always been the goal of BI and it is certainly possible but it doesn’t happen without a solid foundation and that foundation is your data warehouse.