So, you have a reporting tool… now what?
Definition of Reporting– The process of interrogating the data you have, to find the information you need.
We are surrounded by reporting in our daily lives, from watching the morning news to family and friends sharing their experiences of the day with us. These are examples of reports being ‘pushed’ to us. In a similar vein, many software products provide us with standard reports, normally those which the vendor feels are most commonly required. Unfortunately, these reports don’t tend to deliver precisely what we need.
To address this, many companies have invested in reporting tools to allow users the ability to create their own reports. And now, with the users enabled we can sit back and enjoy our new reporting freedom, or can we? How can we be sure that our new reporting tool is delivering what is needed?
Creating the perfect report!
Creating a report is similar to running a mini project, with various steps required to ensure robustness and accuracy of the output. A basic plan can look something like this:
Define the Report
Source the Data
Build the Report
Test and Validate the Output
Before you start creating your report it is important that you understand your end goal and what you are trying to achieve. To maximise the adoption of any report it is key to understand how the end audience wish to see it, will it be rows of text or some sort chart or dashboard. In our experience, we find that people who see the report for information will prefer a dashboard, while staff who are ‘working’ with a report will normally need a text-based output.
Clean Data is King
Data is like crude oil, before it can be used it needs to be extracted and refined into something we need. The single largest issue encountered by users is sourcing the data. Traditionally, data has been ‘held’ (or some may say ‘guarded’) by the IT department.
Gaining access can prove difficult and at worst, potentially carries a significant internal cost. Some IT departments have been known to internally cross charge as much as £60,000 for the creation of a new data feed. Thankfully there are some ways around the need to create a new data feed and incurring the associated cost, the most obvious way.
The right person, or tool, for the right job
It is important that users understand the skills needed to build reports. Some tools require good MS Excel skills with the tool using similar logic to MS Excel, other tools require either generic programming skills or bespoke skills based upon the actual tool.
If users do not have the required skills it is unlikely they will produce the desired reports. We know that sounds obvious, but many users will attempt to create reports without the required skills, this generally results in failure and undermines the confidence in the tool. Ultimately the users lose the impetus to proceed and end up falling back on being dependant on a central IT function (with its costs and timescales) to deliver reports.
Before a report can be ‘trusted’ to be used within the business, it needs to be tested to ensure that it is accurate and meets the business need. Working with colleagues to check that the report produces the expected results in known situations proves that the report is providing the accuracy needed.
So, who needs reporting?
Reporting is no longer sole preserve of the IT department, more business units are taking control of their own reporting requirements to ensure that information needed is delivered in a controlled, timely and cost-efficient manner.
Quorum has worked in the reporting space for as long as we have been in business. We have always built reports as part of our solutions; however, it is in recent years and with the advent of self-serve reporting tools that we have started working with users to assist in enabling their ability to use in-house tools.
Our history in data and data management allows us to overcome what are most commonly the biggest issues around the sourcing and utilisation of the required data sources. This approach allows Quorum to be ‘tool agnostic’ and therefore able to assist clients with differing reporting tools to solve the same problems.
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