Business intelligence has come a long way in the last 20 years. From its humble beginnings as a marriage between Excel and complex SQL queries to the latest user-friendly self-service functionalities, BI software has become the go-to resource for analytics and reporting.

However, there’s still a gap in what companies need and what they can get. Enterprise-level functionality is clunky and remains out of reach for most companies due to its high price tag. As a result, the industry is on a cusp of a major shift. “Full-service” business intelligence is on the horizon, and small to mid-market businesses and large companies alike stand to benefit.

No IT Necessary. Really.

The recent shift of self-service BI aims to completely push IT out of the picture. Instead of having to route all data questions through an often backed-up technology department, sales teams and finance departments now have answers at their fingertips. Companies no longer have to translate finance terms to technology terms and back again to find the answers they need for strategy improvement.

Unfortunately, analysts still need to design and develop their own apps within their self-service BI solution to get to the specific data insights they need. This adds on a layer of time, complexity, and support from the software providers. Sometimes this process even regresses to the need for IT, defeating the point of self-service functionality.

To stay ahead of the curve, BI developers are evolving software to deliver off-the-shelf analytics. These solutions allow for plug-and-play data analysis and easy customization, with no programming required. Even better, a handful of these full-service solutions can be launched within days, drastically reducing the typical months-long traditional enterprise BI deployment. This reduces costs and resources required to deploy robust analytics solutions.

As a result, full-service BI software provides a faster and easier path to actionable insights within commercial and operational data, helping companies drive more decisions with scientific logic. This streamlined access to analytics eliminates guesswork and drives strategy based on facts, not on gut. Full service BI can illuminate specific gaps in sales, pricing, and customer strategies as well as opportunities for margin improvement. In turn, companies become more flexible, better prepared to capture more profitable business opportunities, and less likely to get stuck with bad business strategy.

Portable Data Insights

Don’t forget about the benefits of cloud technology. Data-led discovery is available when and where you need it with cloud-based business intelligence. As finance and sales team spend more time away from their desk, full-service software prepares them to make decisions without their typical desktop hardware. Team members can quickly access their company’s sales, pricing, and customer data analytics from their preferred device, making them well-informed anytime, anywhere.

Many cutting-edge BI solutions include the added benefit of report-ready analytics as well, further empowering sales and finance teams. Users can directly export their in-software visuals to a presentation-ready report in pdf or PowerPoint format, freeing up valuable hours in the day for better strategy planning or implementation.

So, what’s the catch?

With most technology, new functionality means a higher price tag. Traditionally, business intelligence couldn’t escape this. Even self-service software can cost companies hundreds of thousands of dollars for a successful deployment plus the time required to develop and maintain apps that drive business value. Add that to ongoing licensing costs, and you’re looking at a several-million-dollar investment. These costs have kept some small to mid-market business out of the game and far from the data analytics they need to take their companies to the next level.

However, due to the rise of customizable cloud-based software, full-service business intelligence bucks this trend and comes in at the same price of, if not below, most self-service solutions. Modern BI software puts users in the driver seat with applications they can easily tweak for their needs, eliminating custom work and allowing providers to charge a much lower price point. As a result, mid-size and even small businesses are getting in the BI game and uncovering insights previously reserved for their larger peers.

As the relationships between business, data, and technology continue to evolve, there will always be roles for Excel and self-service software. However, we’re sure to see full-service business intelligence expand further in the future and become even more accessible to companies of all sizes.

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