That night in 1965, Shepherd-Barron was inspired by a machine dispensing chocolate bars. He realized there must be a way he could get access to his own money, anywhere in the world, by simply replacing chocolate with cash.
Today's chocolate bar dispenser is the epitome of self-service. Just as this simple technology kickstarted the fast food race, or the advent of the ATM revolutionized banking, self-service is on the brink of transforming the way business is done.
Self-service is eating the world
Five years ago, Marc Andreeson predicted that software would eat the world. As a testament to that prediction, self-service is rapidly taking over.
Automation will empower the individual contributor, giving them access to fast, accurate and reliable data and doing away with redundant tasks, focusing that manpower on bigger and better deals instead. Now, enterprises will have the ability to put the right tools in employees' hands. This means more control over their workflow, less strain on IT and increased productivity across all fronts.
By 2020, Gartner predicts that self-service business intelligence platforms will make up 80 percent of all enterprise reporting. Business intelligence platforms will deliver data and analytics directly into the hands of every business user, upending the entire paradigm of how people consume and deploy technical services.
Challenging the balance of power
Self-service has the power to address the challenge all executives face head on: how to stop sending the most mundane transactions through your overworked and understaffed teams- our metaphorical "bank tellers," as the remaining priority business is stuck in a bottleneck. It gives companies a way to democratize their data and analytics, simplifying the process and making it more efficient, doing away with the long lines and the race to finish before bank closing time.
This isn't your father's client/ corporate world anymore where the account managers woo the client, take them golfing and hold long-term contracts based upon relationships. Loyalty is no longer king. In challenging the balance of power, self-service changes the rules of the game. The only relationship that matters is between the person and the product itself. If the product doesn't develop, the customer will leave for a newer model.
It will act as an equalizer between big and small companies, empowering those with fewer hands to do more as they evolve and adapt. Self-service platforms will become essential to nimbler businesses that place data at the core of their operations. It will free up data analysts who are few and far between to focus on more strategic work than reporting, but it will also allow for the democracy of information, so that business users can access the data they need, when they need it.
Entrepreneurs: Rethink your talent
Self-service is critical--but it is only one part of the successful organizations' trident of tools needed to open up infinite opportunity. Equally as important is the adoption of the cloud and the growing amount of readily available open-source software (I'll have more on that in my next column).
Self-service allows all of us as owners to rethink and empower our talent and pool of resources. The "bank teller" of today isn't just stuck in one process, they're now able to access, process and analyze data in a way that yields limitless value for your company. Early stage business leaders and aspiring entrepreneurs, taking advantage of that enormous amount of potential and thinking differently about the way you work will advance your business beyond the competition, and allow you to reap the financial benefits resulting from this paradigm shift.