The coronavirus pandemic and the resulting economic recession has brought about a lot of uncertainty in the business landscape. With fewer deals being made and less cash changing hands, business leaders have less leeway to experiment and make mistakes. Companies need to operate with greater efficiency, and in many cases, this involves making sure that all investments yield short-term returns.
Business intelligence (BI) and big data efforts are now being put on the spot. Data has been lauded as the key fuel for doing business in the information age, and many companies have invested heavily in data efforts by putting up teams and infrastructure to gather and crunch information across their enterprises.
However, despite the technology advancements in this space of recent years, many efforts to incorporate data into strategic management are still observed to fall short.
There are various reasons why this is so. For instance, data often remains dark, as companies simply put up mechanisms to gather data but fail to derive actionable insights from these signals through analysis. For those that do manage to arrive at actionable insights, silos often block the flow of communication to leaders in time for the insights to have a positive impact on decision making.
Reporting is a vital element in this regard, as it puts data-driven insights in front of those who need to see them, when they need to see them. Reports should address pressing issues and encourage timely action. For this to happen, various intricacies, as discussed in this resource, must be considered when creating effective BI reports. Otherwise, leaders may miss out on the critical and time-sensitive insights which can make all the difference in their respective enterprises.
As such, leaders seeking to optimize their analytics efforts need to ensure that reporting workflows effectively bridge the gap and ultimately deliver value to the business.
Many BI efforts are fueled by tools and solutions that make gathering and crunching data easy. A drawback to the wider accessibility of these tools is that some begin to rely too much on the conveniences that they bring. Most tools can so readily generate summaries and visualizations that data teams and analysts fall into the trap of believing that providing what are essentially dashboard snapshots to stakeholders is all there is to reporting.
Effective BI reporting has to go beyond this. To start, reports should contain key metrics that are relevant to the organization's activities. They must also be presented in such a way that's easy to grasp and understand, so using the right visualizations can help a great deal in this regard. But more importantly, reports must also be focused, timely and actionable.
Rather than mere generic summaries, reports can be made to focus on key business concerns. They should highlight critical issues, so that decision makers can make timely decisions. Often, widely distributing a one-size-fits-all report is less than helpful. Some recipients might just gloss over the information, thinking that the report doesn't concern them or their business areas specifically. Executives generally see the most by receiving insights that directly relate to their functions. For example, finance officers may value cash flow and revenue metrics while information officers may want to track trends concerning information technology systems and applications.
Distribution can also be targeted. While it's good to democratize BI and give many members of the organization access to insights, companies must also take care to follow security guidelines and avoid releasing sensitive information to unauthorized personnel. Better analytics software platforms support report management capabilities that allow data teams to customize what data a report sent to a specific user group would contain, in what format, and in what cadence reports are dispatched.
Data teams can also leverage automation to drive report generation and distribution. These activities can be scheduled to allow stakeholders to get insights at regular intervals. Some BI solutions can be configured to generate reports when there are changes in key metrics. Through these, teams and analysts can be freed from the mechanical task of report distribution and focus on more productive and higher-value activities such as diving deep into data, exploring emerging trends and correlations, and generating actionable insights.
Benefiting from effective reports
Organizations should be able to gain from improving the content and timing of their data reports. The advantages and benefits of effective reporting include:
Real-time alerts. Insights generated in real-time allow leaders to get a timely grasp of the current situation of the business. Many business concerns require timely intervention, so being able to decide and take action as soon as trends emerge is beneficial to any organization. Timely response can prevent a negative situation from degrading to something worse.
Integration. Many services can be integrated with each other, allowing companies to streamline and automate their business processes. For example, marketing technology has greatly benefited from data signals surrounding audience intent. It is also possible to use BI insights as triggers for marketing automation software, where a change in individuals' browsing patterns on an ecommerce property can automatically launch a sequence of messages pertaining to this change.
Clarity. Good business leaders often use intuition when quickly making sense of situations. Data, however, can provide clarity by either affirming or debunking their assumptions. Focused reports with area-specific insights allow leaders to correlate variables where they can truly make sense of the situation. By mitigating cognitive biases, leaders can make rational recommendations and decisions that should serve the best interest of the organization.
Predictions. Enterprises may be able to capitalize on emerging trends by using data to make predictions. Emerging trends may not be quite obvious and may appear as blips in the data. By freeing up data teams and analysts from tedious mechanical tasks, they can focus more on exploring these nuances. Organizations can capitalize on these insights by further exploring these opportunities and positioning themselves to be ready to meet new challenges.
Making sense of data isn't as straightforward as many might think. This is why the gap between insight to action continue to stymie many BI efforts. Fortunately, this can be addressed through effective reporting. Informed decisions and timely actions allow enterprises to achieve more whether by capitalizing on opportunities or preventing issues from becoming problems.
Top companies like Amazon and Netflix serve as prime examples of how being data-driven can lead to success. By ensuring that their reports provide actionable insights, BI efforts should be able to make a positive impact on how organizations operate and allow them to enjoy returns from their investments in data and analytics.