Report Factory vs. Self-Service Business Intelligence

The Factory Model of Business Intelligence

The opposite of Self-Service BI is the “Report Factory”. Many companies use business intelligence products like Microstrategy, Business Objects, Cognos and Oracle BI for analyzing data and creating reports.

When an employee wants to find answers to a question, there are normally two options:

  • She loads data into Excel and creates pivot tables, or
  • She asks the IT department to run a report. The IT department operates a “Report Factory”.

The fruits of Excel pivot tables are limited. And waiting for the IT department to deliver the reports can take longer than reasonable. Is there a third option? Yes: Self Service Business Intelligence.


Self-Service Business Intelligence happens when those who need to answer questions from data have the tools and data they need to explore and analyze. They don’t depend on the IT department.

What Does Self-Service Business Intelligence Look Like?

In a self-service business intelligence environment:

  • Those who understand the context and the data have access to tools (such as Tableau) that make it easy to analyze the data
  • IT concentrates on providing clean data to the business, and provides a secure, robust environment for managing the data
  • Executive sponsorship ensures that business users have access to the data, tools and training required to answer questions from data