Self-Service Analytics is Failing - Here’s Why

Self-service analytics has to be one of the better marketing euphemisms I have seen in the BI industry over the last decade. In hearing it, you think about a buffet where you can grab as much of the food that you like and none of the food that you don’t like. Simply walk up, grab, eat, and repeat. But what if you had to cook all the food at the buffett and then do all the dishes after? Is this the self-service you had in mind? Worse yet, what if you had to tell your boss or your CEO that they needed to cook all the food and do all the dishes? Probably wouldn’t go over well, right? Such is the state of self-service analytics today.


The problem is that ‘self-service analytics’ today really translates to, “Hey, here is a shovel - go dig through the data yourself.” Sure, the data models have become simpler and the data is more accessible, but few execs and decision makers have the time, skills, or desire to learn a suite of BI tools to go digging around for the answers and guidance they need. What they really want is to have the insights and suggested actions delivered to them directly.


This is exactly why we built Winnow Analytics.


As a team leader and a decision maker, I was frustrated that I never had the insights I wanted when I needed them. Typically I would harass an overburdened analyst for the numbers and insights I needed and treat them as if they were my own dedicated resource. This was, of course, not true, and eventually the burnt-out analyst (or their boss, the BI director) would get fed up and offer me “self-service” tools so I could get what I needed on my own. As a people manager, I have a finely attuned sense of when someone is dodging work and putting it back on me, and this immediately smelled fishy. I kept trying to carve out the time to learn these new “self-service” tools to make my own dashboards and reports. To be honest, it was incredibly frustrating. Didn’t we have a BI team as a business unit specifically to solve this problem? I never did figure out all those self-service tools. Instead, I returned to harassing analysts with weekly or even daily meetings to tell me what happened. But still I thought, ‘There has to be a better way,’ and when I met my cofounder Anthony Chamberas, I was certain of it.


Anthony had suffered the same problems with self-service analytics tools that I had, but from the opposite side. As an analyst, he had tried to unbury himself (and his team) from executive requests by providing self-service tools. He quickly realized nobody was interested in taking on the additional burden. They didn’t want to learn a new tool or take on a new set of responsibilities. They simply wanted updated numbers when they needed them and data-driven guidance for decision making on what actions their team should take next.


As a pragmatist, Chamberas also wanted to see his team using data to make better decisions. On top of that, he realized that nobody was looking at dashboards, despite their obvious value. Enterprises big and small were developing massive dashboard graveyards. Nobody was looking at dashboards because people had come to think of them like spam. Executives would ask an analyst for help in becoming more data driven and instead would just be handed another dashboard to decipher and monitor. As unused dashboards piled up, the problem became clear to Chamberas: No single human can monitor a few dozen dashboards for relevant changes 24/7. It’s just not practical or really even possible. Yet every time someone wants new insights, the problem is magnified: “Oh, we’ll just throw another dashboard at you.” And what happens when decision makers stop using dashboards? They come straight back to analysts asking for guidance.


As a Tableau ambassador, the co-facilitator of the 4,000+ member Boston Tableau Users Group, and the leader of the new Tableau Developers User Group, Chamberas had heard these same concerns echoing across the Tableau community. Even the Tableau sales team wanted a better way to stay on top of key metrics without have to fish through and interpret dashboards. So born out of necessity, Anthony started Winnow Analytics with a goal of creating easy-to-use but powerful alerts built right on top of Tableau dashboards. The prescriptive alerts would function like advice coming directly from your data. Winnow watches all the key aspects of all of your dashboards for you and sends insights and actions to you and your team at the exact right moment.


With over 100 downloads, customers are now using Winnow’s Alert IQ Tableau Extension to let them know when sales are dipping, inventory is low, supply chains are off schedule, when customers are primed for upsell and cross-sell opportunities, and more. And the best part is, all you have to do is subscribe to the alerts that are the most relevant for you in order to get this intelligence right in your inbox and/or Slack channel along with suggested actions to take as next steps.


Alert IQ provides everything decision makers wanted in self-service analytics without having to take on the burden of learning new tools and gain new skills. If you can relate to these scenarios and have felt the pain as either an analyst, BI manager, or decision maker, we urge you to try Winnow’s Alert IQ free for 30 days. Let us know what you think - we want to know and we are here to help!

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