10 Steps towards a self-service analytics environment

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Self-service analytics is a way for individuals within an organisation to access and understand data without needing a lot of technical know-how or IT support. It gives users simple tools to explore data, create reports, and find insights on their own terms.

The key benefits of self-service analytics are:

  • Empowerment of non technical users: Individuals from various departments can dive into data without needing advanced technical skills. This means that people can make smart moves based on real facts, and they don't have to wait around for IT.
  • Increased Efficiency: Because users can handle their own data tasks without asking IT, business users are able to have speedier insights and IT has more time to tackle big-picture projects.
  • Innovation: Employees have the freedom to explore data creatively, uncovering insights and opportunities that may have gone unnoticed with traditional reporting methods. This encourages a culture of innovation and continuous improvement within the organization.
  • Improved Decision-Making: Self-service analytics facilitates an iterative approach to data analysis, allowing users to quickly test hypotheses, explore different scenarios, and refine their analyses in real-time. This iterative process can lead to deeper insights and better decision-making outcomes.
Below are 10 steps that your organization can follow to create a self-service environment. By following these 10 steps, you can establish a robust self-service culture that empowers your employees to harness the power of data for informed decision making and innovation.

Step 1: Explain the vision & benefits of self-service analytics

Understand what matters most to your organization and arrange meetings with key stakeholders, including department heads, senior executives, and IT leaders, to highlight how self-service analytics and building  a data-driven culture can help to achieve organisational objectives.

Present concrete examples of successful self-service analytics implementations, illustrating the potential benefits for your organisation's operations. During these meetings, you can also define measurable KPIs together for tracking progress and evaluating the impact on key organisational goals. Through these engagements, aim to build consensus and enthusiasm for embracing self-service analytics as a catalyst for organisational growth and innovation.

Step 2: Get executive support

Securing executive sponsorship is paramount. This entails engaging top-level executives and rallying their support behind the adoption of self-service analytics. With executive buy-in secured, the next step is to obtain the necessary resources and support for successful implementation. This involves allocating adequate funds, technology, and personnel.

However, it's not just about acquiring resources; it's also about establishing leadership support. Gaining buy-in from senior leadership is essential for setting priorities, driving cultural change, and ensuring that self-service analytics becomes a strategic priority rather than a fleeting trend.

This ensures that self-service analytics receives the attention, time, and commitment needed to thrive and make a meaningful impact within the organisation. By making employees aware that this is something that the organisation sees as a top priority, they’ll know that they’re able to dedicate time to it for training etc. 

Step 3: Identify self-service analytics users and personas

By identifying and understanding the different types of users who interact or will interact with data within your organization, you can tailor data and analytics solutions to meet their specific needs, ultimately driving adoption. 

Achieving this involves the following steps:

➔ Identify User Groups: Start by identifying various departments or groups within the organization, such as sales, marketing, finance, and operations.

Gather Information: Collect detailed information about each user group, including their roles, responsibilities, goals, challenges, and data needs. This can be done through interviews, surveys, or workshops with representatives from each group.

Create User Personas: Based on the gathered information, create user personas for each group. These personas represent typical users within each group and include demographic details, job roles, goals, pain points, preferred methods of interacting with data, and their skill levels.

Define Characteristics: For each user persona, define key characteristics such as job role, goals, challenges, data needs, and technical expertise level.

Map User Journeys: Map out the typical user journey for each persona, from accessing data to deriving insights and making decisions. Identify touch points and interactions with data and analytics platforms at each stage of the journey.

Iterate and Refine: User personas should be dynamic and subject to iteration and refinement over time. Regularly revisit and update them based on feedback, changes in organisational dynamics, or evolving data needs.

Step 4: Invest in a data infrastructure that enables self-service analytics

In a self-service environment, we want data storage and integration tools that are scalable, easy to use, and cloud based (allowing organisations to handle large volumes of data without infrastructure concerns). Introducing…  the modern data stack

The modern data stack refers to a collection of cloud-based tools and technologies designed to streamline the process of data collection, storage, transformation, and analysis.

It is becoming the preferred choice for self-service analytics primarily due to its unparalleled scalability and flexibility. It typically includes components like data warehouses (e.g., Snowflake), data integration tools (e.g., Fivetran), and transformation tools (e.g., dbt). By utilising these integrated, best-of-breed tools, businesses can build robust data pipelines and analytical frameworks with relative ease. And due to the modular nature of the stack, you are not confined to specific technologies or vendors. This flexibility allows you to choose and utilise the tools that best meet your unique needs and business environments.

Consequently, Modern Data Stack tools can be easily replaced with alternatives that offer the same or similar functionalities. 

self-service analytics with the modern data stack

Step 5: Provide self-service analytics tools

Continuing with the modern data stack, we need an intuitive and user-friendly visualisation tool to sit on top of the data infrastructure. This is crucial for promoting user adoption and maximising the effectiveness of self-service analytics initiatives. 

Tableau is a great choice due to its scalability, ease of use, and extensive community support. The drag-and-drop functionality and interactive dashboards offered by Tableau empower users to uncover actionable insights quickly and efficiently, without requiring extensive technical expertise.

However, Tableau is not the only option available. Other powerful tools like Sigma, Thoughtspot and Power BI also provide robust features for data visualisation and self-service analytics. Each of these tools has its unique strengths, and the choice depends on specific organisational needs and existing technology stacks. As discussed previously, different tools in the modern data stack can be switched out according to user preference, particularly if your visualisation tools are underpinned by a well designed and robust data platform.

analytics in the modern data stack

Step 6: Develop a Data Governance Framework

A data governance framework is a structured approach to managing and controlling an organization's data assets. It includes policies, processes, roles, and responsibilities designed to ensure that data is managed effectively, securely, and in accordance with regulatory requirements. This might involve setting up role-based access controls to protect sensitive information.

In a self-service environment in particular, we want to be sure that the users have access to clean, reliable and up-to-date data, and don’t have access to sensitive data if their role does not require it. This is essential to maintain trust in the insights that they’re deriving and making decisions upon.

And while encouraging user autonomy is essential, it's equally important to govern what's published, by whom, and where. This ensures that there's consistency and reliability in the reports shared across the organization, preventing a proliferation of disparate reports scattered across various platforms. While users should have the freedom to experiment in a sandbox environment, there should be an approval process in place within each team to promote content to production. This will uphold quality standards when sharing insights with others.

Step 7: Offer training & enablement

Encouraging continuous learning and skill development is key to fostering a culture of data-driven decision-making within the organization. This can include training on fundamental data concepts, storytelling techniques and the use of the chosen analytics tools. Training can take various forms such as sessions, workshops, and online courses tailored to different skill levels and roles within the organization. In addition to initial training programs, organizations should provide ongoing opportunities for employees to expand their knowledge and expertise in analytics. This may include access to advanced training courses, certification programs, and participation in analytics communities and forums.

Investing in continuous learning and skill development enables organizations to keep their workforce skilled up on best practices, how to create impactful visualizations and analyses, and how to extract actionable insights. This ensures that employees are equipped to work effectively with chosen tools, driving informed decision-making processes. This also helps employees to understand that skill development is something that the organization prioritizes and so spending time on this is valued and integral to success. 

Step 8: Promote Collaboration and Knowledge Sharing

By creating platforms for knowledge sharing, such as internal forums, collaborative workspaces or lunch and learn sessions, employees can exchange ideas, best practices, and insights derived from data analysis. This also provides a centralized location for users to share insights, ask questions, and collaborate on analytics projects. Additionally, promoting the use of new data sources and showcasing how different individuals or departments are leveraging them can encourage collaboration and spark new ideas. By making collaboration and knowledge sharing a priority and actively encouraging participation, organizations can create a vibrant analytics community where users feel empowered to work together, learn from one another, and drive collective success.

Organizations can further promote sharing by highlighting new and popular content, such as insightful reports or innovative analytics techniques, through internal communication channels. For instance, featuring user-generated content in newsletters or on intranet portals can showcase the value of knowledge sharing and inspire others to contribute.

There are a lot of great ideas for cultivating a data culture and promoting knowledge sharing in this Tableau Conference 2024 Presentation by Russ Cantrell from the University of South Alabama: Salesforce+ Data Culture Trio: Training, Data Literacy, and Hackathons.

Step 9: Provide Ongoing Support and Maintenance

Providing technical support and assistance is key to ensuring users can maximise the potential of these powerful tools. By offering accessible support channels and knowledgeable assistance, organizations empower users to navigate any obstacles and get back on track.

However, it's not just about solving problems as they arise – proactive monitoring is crucial for preempting issues and ensuring seamless operations. Monitoring tools should be deployed to keep a vigilant eye on system performance, ensuring optimal functionality and swift resolution of any potential issues that may arise. For instance, if there's a sudden spike in data processing times, the monitoring system can flag the issue, enabling the IT team to address it promptly and prevent any disruptions to users' analytical workflows. By staying ahead of the curve and swiftly resolving any issues that may arise, organizations can uphold the reliability and efficiency of their self-service analytics offerings, keeping users productive and engaged.

Gathering feedback and continuously improving self-service analytics offerings is also important for maintaining user engagement and proactive involvement in analytics. Regular check-ins with employees ensure they're comfortable navigating the analytics landscape and leveraging tools effectively, and also give them the opportunity to voice their opinions and suggest enhancements to the analytics platform. This feedback loop fosters a culture of continuous improvement, ensuring that the platform evolves to meet users' evolving needs and expectations.

Step 10: Celebrate Successes and Share Results

Celebrating successful self-service analytics initiatives is essential for fostering a culture of data-driven decision-making within organizations. Recognition can come in various forms, from shout-outs in team meetings to formal awards ceremonies. Recognizing achievements not only acknowledges their hard work but also inspires others to leverage analytics tools to drive similar successes.

Sharing success stories can also be shared through internal newsletters, company-wide presentations, or dedicated success story sessions. By highlighting real-world examples of how self-service analytics can drive tangible results, organizations can inspire others to embrace analytics tools and practices.

Leaders can lead by example by actively engaging with analytics tools themselves and sharing their own experiences and insights with their teams. By encouraging a culture of curiosity, learning, and experimentation, organizations can motivate employees at all levels to embrace self-service analytics and drive innovation.


In conclusion, self-service analytics changes how organizations use data, by giving everyone in the organization the power to access and understand data without needing advanced technical skills. This leads to faster decision making, increased efficiency and a culture of innovation. To succeed in your self-service analytics journey, you should obtain executive support, invest in the right tools and infrastructure, and provide training and ongoing support. To further increase adoption, you should encourage collaboration, promote knowledge sharing and celebrate successes. This will create a culture where data-driven decision making becomes the norm.

Kathryn McCrindle

Kathryn McCrindle

I help you get insights from your data. Easier. Faster.

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