Self service analytics – All you can eat, or pie in the sky?

Notitia's Canberra Principal & data analytics expert, demonstrates how to explore your customer's “self service analytics” request, with another food-related analogy.

May 15, 2024

Cartoon image of a pie with berries against a black background

Self service analytics: What does it mean for your customer?

If you’ve worked in analytics and dashboard development for any length of time, you’re bound to have heard someone talk about “self service analytics”.

Usually something like… “We need self service analytics so we can get the data that we want on-demand, and not have to wait for IT.”

This question is a great opportunity to investigate further and find out your stakeholder's precise needs and expectations.

Ariel Pilcer, Notitia's Canberra Principal & data analytics expert demonstrates how to conceptualise “self service analytics”. And if you're into food-related analogies, we'd recommend also reading Ariel's previous post "What this data scientist is cooking up" explaining how data science is applied to extract value (along with a recipe for lamb shanks).

Notitia Principal, Ariel Pilcer is an experienced solution architect and analytics delivery lead, with a background in mathematics and data science. Ariel has driven solutions for clients in government, defence, aviation, banking and retail. He thrives on using data to transform the way we live and seeing the impact it has on organisational decision-making.

Get in touch: or book a chat here.

Self service analytics: What does it mean?

Your customer says, "We need self service analytics so we can get the data that we want on-demand, and not have to wait for IT.”
What are they actually asking for?

While ‘on-demand’ is self-explanatory. The bit that’s imprecise is ‘the data we need’.

Here are some starter-to-advanced data analytics options, to help you tease out and explore the data needs of your customer (strictly food analogies only).

I just like pretzels. ‘Self service’ means there’s a pretzel jar that is always full, and I can help myself whenever I like.

I like Macca's. ‘Self service’ means there’s a 24/7 Macca's I can visit and order whatever I want from the menu. I can even customise my order, up to a point (e.g. double pickles on the Big Mac).

God mode
I like cooking. ‘Self service’ means there’s a fully-stocked kitchen with all the gadgets and gizmos, and I can cook whatever I like, whenever I like.

At this point in the exploration journey, you will have understood what sort of data your customer needs, how much they need, when they need it, any customisations and how involved they want to be in the process to extract the end result.

Self Service: Meals on wheels (with automation, data monitoring & alerting tools)

For some, self service might seem like a burden.

Whatever the degree of self-service, it’s still you doing the work. It means that you have to check the same reports every hour/day/week… and most of the time nothing has even changed.

But not if you use a data monitoring and alerting tool.

Modern tools like Qlik Sense allow you to configure data triggers that implement workflows when your criteria are met.

Some sample workflows that can be automated include:

Task chaining: If new data lands in the database, transform it and reload my dashboards.

Alerting: If someone on my team creates an app, let the rest of us know on Slack.

Active intelligence: If my spend is 10% over expected, send account owners an email with an overview and link to a dashboard.

Report generation: If my stock levels drop below a threshold, create a report with SKUs and quantities for restocking, and a list of suppliers.

What’s cooking?

Diners know what you’re serving from your menu. If you want to communicate the provenance of your ingredients, their freshness or popularity, that’s a great place to do it.

Solutions like Qlik’s catalogue and lineage capability offer the same thing for data consumers, and funnels all your users towards a governed data layer and single source of truth. This ensures consistency and repeatability. There’s nothing more frustrating than a restaurant that’s hit and miss!

You can still expose additional experimental or unmastered data to  your power users. Much like the dedicated community of menu hackers who order non-standard order combinations to create new flavours or “game the system”, these power users can identify new value in your data. Perhaps their concoctions even make it onto the menu, one day…

Fine dining or pigging out‍

Say you want some authentic sushi. You find two restaurants nearby.

1. Big4’s All You Can Eat: A buffet chain serving sushi, and also pizza, curries, stew, tapas, salads, patisserie, oatmeal for some reason, smallgoods, car washes while you eat, smoothies, bibimbap…

2. A popular local that sells expertly handcrafted sushi

Where would you go?

If you’re sick of stuffing yourself at the data buffet, and want a palate cleanser, try Notitia.

We provide Australian organisations with end-to-end digital transformation services including data strategy, IT project management, analytics, web development and digital design.

Contact us to find out how we can help with your next data and technology project.

If you’d like to hear more about the work that Ariel does as Notitia Principal - Canberra book a chat here.

Notitia's Data Quality Cake recipe