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Improving How Your Company Handles Reporting

In today’s business landscape, information can be power. But its impact depends on several factors: how it’s formatted, who has access to it and how timely it is, to name a few.

Reporting is one common strategy companies use to stay up-to-date on certain data insights. This practice can be very fruitful, as it helps keep stakeholders in various departments informed. But reporting has become somewhat of a “can’t live with it, can’t live without it” type endeavor for some companies—especially when people feel they’re being underutilized in some way.

Improving how your company handles reporting is a matter of getting the best return on investment possible. You want the benefits of reporting to far outweigh the effort that goes into them. Here are a few ideas for streamlining this process.

Define Reporting Roles and Responsibilities

It sounds simple, but miscommunication about reporting roles and responsibilities can cause a lot of confusion. The last thing your company needs is a time-sensitive report slipping through the cracks because various employees thought someone else was handling its creation.

Some organizations have specialized data or IT teams of specialists overseeing all things data, from back-end functionality to front-end reporting. Other employees would then work primarily through this team to request the reports they need. Other organizations use self-service analytics, which allow employees to run their own queries rather than depending on these data teams. How you approach business intelligence depends on your company’s culture and the software you use to tackle reporting.

As GCN points out, one pitfall data teams often fall into is developing “swanky dashboards with elaborate back-end architecture that sit collecting virtual dust.” The problem with having only a handful of people tackle the entire company’s BI reporting is that it keeps everyone else in the dark. To increase adoption, data teams must “actively engage program managers and staff by promoting use of reports and dashboards.”

Simplicity is advantageous. Usability is key. Communication is paramount. Make sure people know who’s creating which reports—and, if it’s their responsibility, how to use the tools they need to do it well.

Know When Reports Are—and Aren’t—the Answer

Some tasks are very well suited to reporting. Want to track sales performance by location? Scheduling a weekly or monthly report is simple enough. But now imagine your company is choosing a location for a new store opening. Your team needs to check staffing and operational data for other locations to determine which types of locations are the most successful. With access to ad hoc reporting through a platform like ThoughtSpot, you’d be able to query hourly order volumes, staffing information and sales figures for each location—in seconds. It’s not necessarily something you’d benefit from building a recurring report, but it’s very important information to have during the decision-making process.

So, reports are sometimes the answer. But other times, the ability to conduct one-off ad hoc queries—and keep asking dynamic questions of data—is more important. Striking a balance is the best way to solidify your overall BI strategy.

Set Goals for Each Report

Reporting for the sake of reporting is a waste of time, money and patience. Every deliverable worth its weight in gold addresses designated key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics. Figure out what purpose each report is serving. If certain teams, departments or individuals feel the reports are lacking information they need, figure out what that is so you can include it. Only by establishing a goal for each report can you make sure each one fulfills its maximum usefulness.

Improving how your company handles reporting can positively affect your bottom line, which makes it worth doing. Figure out how you want to handle BI reporting, what you’d like to accomplish with each one and how you can strengthen this strategy by making ad hoc data analysis available, too.

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