In our previous article on the topic of how to make your BI reports better in 2012, we presented 5 ways to take your reporting to the next level by making design a priority, enhancing system performance with in-memory capabilities, delivering reports directly to users, capturing comments that provide context, and using cloud data to provide users with new insights. There are about a million practical pieces of advice to improve BI reporting, but I've polled the experts at arcplan who have been designing and implementing reports for companies all over the world for nearly 20 years, and this is our top 10 list. Let's get into items 6 through 10:
6) Include unstructured data. Uncovering unexpected insights is the crown jewel of data analysis, and many companies are not tapping into the data sources that can provide them with this opportunity. By collecting and analyzing social media data, for example, alongside the rest of your corporate data, you get an enhanced view of the people who purchase (or don't purchase) your products and services. Social data can help you spot early trends that can drive product development, product delivery, and marketing messaging.
7) Go mobile. Gartner predicts that by 2013, 33% of BI functionality will be consumed via handheld devices. Executives and road warriors are becoming increasingly comfortable with receiving reports on their smartphones and tablet PCs and are pushing for data access when they need it, wherever they need it. The easiest to push to mobile first are your existing reports, slightly redesigned to incorporate large fonts and easy finger navigation to facilitate drill-down. Mobile reports are not just about viewing data – interaction needs to be taken into account.
8) Empower users through self-service. As reporting evolves beyond static reports, business users are clamoring for a means to easily interact with data without having to use complex tools or rely on IT. New ad-hoc reporting solutions allow non-power users to dynamically build reports from live data with drag-and-drop to gain instant insight, and then save and share their reports. These solutions allow BI to go beyond the domain of the typically small group of power users and put analysis into the hands of the knowledge workers who need it.
9) Make the most of what you already have. Many businesses have a rich repository of existing reports and data sources that can be made accessible to those who need them. Periodic auditing to determine the most- and least-used reports can help you keep your reports relevant and useful.
10) Make reports searchable. Adding more metadata to your reports (like standard tags, author information, time periods covered, etc.) makes them more likely to be found and used, rather than having their contents (and effort) duplicated time and time again. Going further, allowing reports to be rated, annotated, and shared with colleagues is a step toward the future of BI – collaboration.
What are your plans for improving BI reporting in 2012? We'd love to hear from you!