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Self-Service Data Platform: A Buyer’s Guide For 2024

Your guide to the self-service data platform including a breakdown of key features to look for

How To
January 14, 2024
Self-Service Data Platform: A Buyer’s Guide For 2024
Your guide to the self-service data platform including a breakdown of key features to look for

There are a lot of self-service data platforms out there. And picking the one that best fits your organization’s needs can be challenging. 

In this article, we’ll discuss what you should expect from a self-service data platform and what features make it a good choice. 

And since you’ve landed on our blog, it would be foolish of us not to show you how our self-service data operations platform, Keboola, can help you scale data operations by allowing non-technical users to access and analyze data independently. 

But before we dive in, let’s look at why this type of platform is worth the investment. 

What Is A Self-Service Data Platform? 

A self-service data platform empowers users to discover, access, create, analyze, and productize datasets irrespective of their technical skills. 

This platform simplifies data analytics for non-technical users through an intuitive interface while providing data teams with efficient tools for their tasks throughout the data lifecycle.

A self-serve data platform offers many advantages:

For business users

  • Accessibility and empowerment: Business users gain direct access to data, enabling them to make quicker, more informed decisions without waiting for IT or data teams.
  • Faster data-driven decisions: With intuitive tools for data analysis and business intelligence, business users can derive insights and trends that directly inform their work.
  • Increased productivity: Reduces the time spent requesting data reports from specialized teams, allowing business users to focus on strategic tasks.

For data teams

  • Reduced workload: A self-service data platform automates routine data requests, allowing data professionals to focus on more complex tasks.
  • Improved collaboration: Facilitates better collaboration across silos, leading to more relevant and effective data solutions.
  • Optimized DataOps: The self-service data platform also streamlines the specific needs of the data team, such as out-of-the-box data infrastructure set-up, faster creation of ETL workflows, an ecosystem for testing machine learning data models, etc.

For the organization as a whole

  • Agility and competitiveness: Enables the organization to respond more quickly to market changes and opportunities through real-time data access and analysis.
  • Data-driven culture: Fosters a culture where data is readily used and valued across the organization, enhancing overall performance.
  • Cost efficiency: Reduces reliance on external consultants or specialized data teams for everyday data needs, thereby saving costs.

Self-Service Data Platform Features To Look For 

Let’s examine the essential features of a self-service data platform by focusing on diverse use cases to understand their real-world impact and utility.

1. Data discovery

Users need to find and understand data before they can use it. Good self-serve analytics platforms empower data discovery via a data catalog

A data catalog acts as a central reference system, organizing and indexing the available data with explanations, business definitions, and links to other sources. This is crucial in large organizations where the volume and variety of data can be overwhelming.

Data catalog features differ among providers. Keboola, for example, offers one of the most extensive data catalogs with features including:

  • Business definitions
  • Metadata attributes (such as the source of data, data destinations, and workflows that produce the data)
  • Data quality flags, signaling data freshness
  • Contact information for inquiries
  • Ability to share the data catalog along with the data 
  • Data governance controls specifying who can see and share data to maintain sensitive data private

PRO TIP: BEYOND DATA DISCOVERY

The best tools allow you to discover other data assets, not just your tables. For example, DocsBot in Keboola helps you find the right documentation, email, or support ticket to answer your questions. 

2. Visual flow builder

The Visual Flow Builder is an essential feature in self-service data platforms designed to construct and manage data pipelines. 

It lets users visually map the data journey from various sources to data storage, like data lakes, databases, or data warehouses. Using a visual UI allows users to enjoy several benefits, including faster workflow creation through drag-and-drop functionality, quick identification of dependencies, and easier collaborations between technical and domain teams.

For example, Keboola offers a Visual Flow Builder, where users can quickly map out the journey of data by drag-and-dropping different components in place:

PRO TIP: DATA PIPELINE TEMPLATES

The best self-serve data platforms, like Keboola, offer templates for the most common data pipelines. These templates allow users to set up the most common workflows with a couple of clicks, such as extracting marketing data from different advertising platforms.

3. No-code and low-code transformations

Transformations are necessary for cleaning data sets, computing metrics, and preparing data for visualizations and business intelligence dashboards.

Look for no-code and low-code transformations to optimize the data preparation work for your domain experts and the data team.

In Keboola, users can use no-code transformations as a simple UI. This means you can simply pick the data set you want to transform and select the transformation from a drop-down list of possible data transformations (in the example below, we’re removing duplicate rows).

Keboola also offers the flexibility to use low-code transformations with Python, R, Julia, or SQL. These look like a simple workbook where you specify the incoming data, write the code for the transformation, and the location of the output data:

#getsmarter
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Ready to handle growing data volumes and user demands WITHOUT increasing the burden on the technical staff?

4. Pre-built connectors

Data engineers often spend a lot of time writing scripts to extract data from their sources and load data into data storage (like a data lake or data warehouse). Pre-built connectors are a game-changer in this case. They eliminate the need for complex scripting and reduce the technical burden on data engineers.

When looking for the right self-service data platform, check if the tool provides existing connectors for your data sources. This is key to ensure smooth implementation post-purchase. These connectors save you time with data integration, sparing you from the task of manual scripting.

Take Keboola as an example: To extract data, you can simply select the suitable connector (like the Facebook Ads extractor) and configure access credentials. This ensures secure and authorized data extraction.

Keboola then seamlessly handles the rest in the background to call the Facebook Ads API, retrieve the data, and save it to the specified data destination. 

5. Data observability

For effectively managing a regulated data operation, you should track who interacted with what data asset and when.

When selecting a self-service data platform, prioritize these four key data observability features:

  1. Metadata recording and access: Ensure the platform records all the metadata for observability events. It's important to know who (user) performed what action (activity) on which data asset (project, table, schema, etc.). This information is crucial to keep data lineage across your observability events and is foundational for all the other data observability features listed below. The best platforms like Keboola record this information and allow direct access to analyze and derive metrics and KPIs.
  2. A monitoring dashboard: Opt for platforms that feature a dashboard displaying key observability events like schema changes, security threats, and costs. 
  3. Alerts: Platforms that offer alerts for observability issues are invaluable. They enable you to identify and address potential problems before they escalate, protecting your business operations.

Ready to handle growing data volumes and user demands WITHOUT increasing the burden on the technical staff?

6. Data product creation

Top self-serve data platforms are more than analytics platforms; they empower you to turn your data into products, increasing your competitiveness and improving the ROI of your data operations. 

For example, Keboola offers a suite of Data Apps to convert your data sets into interactive customer data applications. With just a few clicks, you can create AI-generated SMS marketing campaigns, build an Online Marketing Dashboard, or compare your Google Analytics UA vs. GA4.

7. Data governance

Giving federated data access to all users in your company doesn’t have to compromise your data management control.

The right self-service analytics platforms help you maintain data governance over your data assets. They ensure security and regulatory compliance while preventing data misuse. 

Kebooal provides role-based access control for every user to enable this use case. This approach restricts the extent of data operations a user can perform, especially with sensitive data, maintaining a balance between accessibility and control.

8. Data security

When selecting a self-service data platform provider, you need to choose one that adheres to high accreditation and certification standards as set by regulatory compliance bodies. 

A recommended practice is picking providers whose platforms comply with GDPR, HIPAA, and SOC 2. By prioritizing providers with these certifications, you ensure higher protection for your organization's sensitive data.

9. Scalability

Are you searching for a tool capable of managing large-scale data ingestion efficiently without performance lags or errors?

Look for real-time data streaming or change data capture (CDC) features. These features help you analyze schemas and only push the new and updated data down the data integration pipelines to speed up your processes at scale. 

What Is The Best Self-Service Data Platform?

Keboola

Keboola is a self-service data operations platform that enables all users within organizations to connect data, automate workflows, and handle all their data needs. Its features provide users with complete control of their data and processes:

  • Data discovery: Advanced data catalog with business definitions, metadata attributes, data quality flags, contact information, ingrained data governance, and sharing features. 
  • Visual flow builder: Easily create and manage data workflows, identify dependencies, and improve team collaboration with Keboola’s intuitive, drag-and-drop interface.
  • No-code and low-code transformations: Enable non-technical users with a user-friendly UI for no-code transformations with a dropdown list of data transformation options. Additionally, data teams can use low-code transformations in Python, R, Julia, or SQL for tailored data processing.
  • Pre-built connectors: Speed up data integration across 700+ data sources and destinations using Keboola’s pre-built connectors.
  • Data observability: Get full access to observability data using the Telemetry Data component.
  • Data product creation: Create AI and other customer-facing applications from your raw data using Keboola’s Data Apps.
  • Data governance: Manage your data with role-based access control to manage user permissions and properly handle sensitive data.
  • Data security: Keep your data secure with Keboola’s enterprise-level security, backed by GDPR, HIPAA, and SOC 2 certifications.
  • Scalability: Designed for growth, Keboola features CDC, real-time streaming, and scalable backends to handle large data volumes smoothly.

Keboola Pricing 

Keboola offers a free plan with 120 minutes of usage in the first month, followed by 60 free minutes every subsequent month. 

For additional usage, the cost is $0.14 per extra minute, providing a flexible and cost-effective solution for your data operations needs.

Even after burning your allocated free credits, you can still access and work on your project. However, you can only run jobs if you buy extra credits.

Keboola Reviews 

Keboola is one of the top-rated self-service data platforms on the market, with ratings of 4.9 out of 5 on Capterra and 4.7 out of 5 on G2.

“What sealed the deal for us was that Keboola offered the flexibility of using both Python and SQL for transformations, the visual flows that simplify the insights into complex data pipelines, and their amazing support.” - Ronnie Persson, CTO at Pincho Nation
“Without Keboola, it would have taken weeks and likely months to get their data ingested because of their source systems. With Keboola, our engineers were ingesting data within hours.” - Daniel Rothamel, Cloud Data Delivery Engineer at North Labs

Power up your business teams with Keboola 

Investing in a self-service data platform helps you get more value from your organization’s data. But remember, self-serviceable data is just one piece of the puzzle. 

An all-in-one data operations platform like Keboola provides a comprehensive solution beyond that. With an entire suite of tools, you can empower your non-technical users while ensuring fully managed and governed data. 

Contact us and discover how to handle growing data volumes and user demands without increasing the burden on the technical staff. 

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