Joni Girardi is founder and CEO of DataSelf, provider of DataSelf Analytics.
He and his team have been deploying Business Intelligence (BI) in the mid-market for more than 17 years, helping hundreds of organizations.
He launched his venture to help medium-sized businesses get value from their data. His biggest challenge was finding tools that were complete and polished, not underpowered and inflexible.
So he began development of what became DataSelf Analytics. It has since grown to feature a data warehouse, embedded Tableau, and ready-for-work 5,000 reports, dashboards, and KPIs. His years of experience have given him a deep knowledge of data needs among growing medium-sized businesses.
Describe what you do at DataSelf.
Joni: I’m fascinated with how to make sense out of data for business purposes. IBM reported that “in 2015-2016, we created more data than the whole history of humanity.”
But how can you focus on the data that really matters? How can you get this data to the right people at the right time?
My main goal is education. I like to share what I’ve learned with hundreds of BI projects I’ve been involved with – the technologies, business processes, people roles, cultures, user traction.
How did you get into the BI world?
Joni: I was a programmer and eventually navigated into the business side. When I was invited to join a BI company, I thought “why do we need all of this? It’s so easy to build a report.” Well, it’s easy because I’m a programmer, unlike most decision makers. And BI is the bridge to bring data to the right people. I decided to make the BI world better with my technical and business background.
What was the idea behind starting DataSelf?
Joni: There are two main types of BI solutions:
What I call “Mid-sized BI Solutions”. They are designed and priced for the mid-market, and work really well for many organizations.
And enterprise-grade BI. They are really critical when companies have one or more of the following needs:
- Self-service reporting: ease to use reporting tools where users can access, slice and dice, download and even create their own reports and dashboards anytime and anywhere
- Large data volume (speed issues)
- Need to consolidate data silos
They deliver great value but they tend to be expensive, complex and with slow (return on investment) ROI.
DataSelf was created in 2005 to provide enterprise-grade BI solutions to mid-sized companies, in a fast and easy way, and without breaking the bank.
Describe the required expertise for a successful enterprise-grade BI project.
Joni: To get it right, you’ll need expertise in:
- Understanding business needs
- Understanding data sources
- Selecting/using the right BI solution
- Bringing the data together into a data warehouse
- Creating reports and dashboards
- Distributing the information based on individual requirements and preferences. (For instance, users on the road usually need offline reports optimized for their mobile devices.)
Putting together a team that has all of that knowledge is no easy task. And once you put them together, you have to do your best and pray that they’ll stick around.
Instead, you might consider partnering with DataSelf to outsource or complement your BI team.
Software providers have their own Business Intelligence offerings, so why should companies consider DataSelf?
Joni: First, because of focus. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) vendors (such as Microsoft, Sage and Salesforce) offer their own BI tools. And that’s great! But those BI offers focus on the vendor’s own systems. Instead, DataSelf focuses on a single BI solution where decision makers can find data from all of their data silos.
Second, in the long run, companies will need enterprise-grade BI. Instead of facing the pain of change, DataSelf provides off-the-shelf, mature and polished enterprise-grade BI components from the get going plus long-term supporting services.
Lastly, as Kick Van Lunenburg, President of Canadian Life Science, said, “I want to use the best tools on the planet, and DataSelf is one of them.”
How your company is different than your competitors?
Joni: There are many enterprise-grade BI publishers and hundreds of BI service companies out there. However, only DataSelf offers a package of enterprise-grade BI and services designed and priced for mid-sized companies.
Our offerings include BI expertise and more than 5,000 Tableau reports, dashboards and KPIs, our own ETL and a SQL data warehouse for systems such as from Acumatica, Epicor, Everest, Infor CRM, Microsoft Dynamics, NetSuite, Sage, Salesforce, SAP Business One, Syspro, SugarCRM and others.
What successes you can tout?
Joni: Here’s a quote from Mark Sturmon/CEO of ATRO, a truck-part company: “I was too busy for training. When I need something new, I just take an existing report and modify it to suit my needs. If I’ll ever need it again, I do a ‘Save As’. Sure, I could get training. But I just muddle through it, and I have what I want when I need it, so I’m happy.”
Here’s a quote from Jason Coleman, Director of IT/IMS, East Coast Mechanical, Inc.: “We used to spend about 54 hours producing and updating reports on a monthly basis. With DataSelf BI, we cut down that time to 2 hours. The solution had an ROI in the first 30 days of usage. Running reports now take seconds versus hours.”
What advice you have for people assessing their BI options?
Joni: The most important recommendation is being sure that you have your management properly engaged. They should understand the options, pros, cons and costs.
Second, do your due diligence by searching the internet, contacting BI thought leaders, BI vendors and your trusted advisors. Also, do at least two passes at your sources, and be sure to ask how BI offers stack against others.
It’s an amazing time in the BI world.
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