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.
The terms “reporting” and “business intelligence” are often used interchangeably, but in reality, reporting is just one of the common functions of BI. It’s the presentation layer of BI, or the result of data being pulled from repositories and presented to decision-makers. With the number of employees at all levels now considered decision-makers, reporting has become even more important. It’s not just a small subset of power-users who need reports anymore; reports have to evolve to become useful to casual BI users.
The beginning of the year is a great time to evaluate the state of your company’s BI reporting. Are you simply manipulating data within Excel? Do you need more powerful reporting that pulls from multiple data sources?
Let’s talk about some ways to take your reporting to the next level.
1) Consider design. Reports that are visually confusing or overwhelming will not be favored by BI consumers. In the case where your organization is working off of reporting dashboards, some pitfalls to avoid include too many visuals on one screen, inappropriate use of graphs, and the wrong chart types for your data. Charts should include summary-to-detail navigation, so users do not have to leave the screen to analyze what they are seeing. There are many rules to great dashboard design, but the key is to let the reports tell the story and not let the screen be overrun by imagery and “flashing lights.”
2) Get faster with in-memory. In-memory processing takes advantage of the speed of RAM to decrease the response time for queries, significantly enhancing the end user’s experience. It allows report creators and consumers to engage with large data sets quicker than ever before, which results in faster and more proactive decision-making thanks to more immediate, interactive analysis. Most reporting platforms include in-memory capabilities, but only some address security (making sure only the right sets of users have access to certain data and queries).
3) Implement delivery mechanisms.
Today I thought we’d touch on a couple of features in arcplan Enterprise that are starting to get a lot of attention.
Our customers don’t just look at their BI dashboards every day – they interact with them. And in some cases, they like to save their filters for later use. So arcplan created a bookmark feature that allows reports and dashboards to be saved (just like you’d save a link in a browser) with all the filters set just the way you like them. And when you pull up the bookmark, you’ll see your report or dashboard refresh with the most updated data.
You can also export your bookmarks to PowerPoint, Excel, or PDF and can even set up one-time or automatic email delivery. Simply select the reports and bookmarks to include, what format you’d like to receive, and set your schedule.
We think that BI in 2012 will be all about self-service – allowing business users to access and analyze data without help from IT. These features go a long way toward easy access and distribution of information for our customers.
Check out this short video to see how these features work: