Reporting and analysis, previously a centralized, corporate activity with an executive audience, has evolved into an increasingly democratic practice. Today, leading organizations are “democratizing” information by making relevant ad-hoc analysis, reports and dashboards available near real-time for rank and file employees. In doing so, organizations empower those employees to make world-class decisions, especially compared to competitors that lack modern CPM technologies and have policies that limit access to much of their data. According to the research covered in Chapter 1 of Enabling World-Class Decisions, companies that enable employees with data experience a staggering difference in performance compared to companies that do not. With that in mind, what are the best tools to empower an entire organization from top to bottom with timely, accurate and clear information?
Report writers are used to create highly formatted statutory and internal reports such as financial statements or operational reports. Despite decades of evolution, many report writers are still too technical and require IT personnel or experts to design reports, as the user needs knowledge of the underlying database tables and because formulas are composed of proprietary syntax that are not common knowledge. This forms a deep dependency on a select few members in the organization, resulting in a lack of desirable reports, ultimately leading end users to resort to exporting or manually updating spreadsheets. Therefore, leading organizations now generally implement report writers that either are Excel-based or emulate Excel formulas and formatting. They also train designated business users to create and maintain corporate reports, all with the capability to deliver the finished reports on-demand with interactive filters and refresh in a web-browser environment or by e-mail. Realizing the value of accessibility to data has allowed organizations greater flexibility in pulling bespoke reports. This in turn, has improved organizations’ efficiency in reporting.
Ad-Hoc Query Tools
Sometimes referred to as data discovery tools as opposed to report writers, ad-hoc query reporting technology is designed to let virtually any type of end user create reports on the fly with simple drag and drop functionality. Conversely, ad-hoc query reporting is not ideal for creating highly rigid, formatted reports. Organizations choose this method because it reduces the need for power users who design and maintain large numbers of formatted reports. It also addresses one of the most common reporting issues organizations come across, namely when organizations have too many versions of reports that may have only been used once or twice to answer a particular business question and have since been abandoned. With an ad-hoc query tool, users can get answers to their pressing questions and then they either delete the query or save it for reuse later. For many companies, efficiency translates to lean, de-cluttered processes. With ad-hoc query reporting, organizations are able to both answer its own questions without crowding their own systems with redundant and outdated information.
A number of specialized scorecard applications evolved out of the balanced scorecard wave in the early 2000s. However, organizations in general found these applications too rigid and specialized, just like the balanced scorecard methodology itself. With exception, the focus on key performance indicators (KPIs) and targets that emerged from this era remains relevant today. Most companies simply use their report writer or dashboards to calculate and present its KPIs, most often through designing a process that measures corporate, departmental and individual KPIs on a periodical basis. As opposed to studying lengthy financial or operational reports where only a few figures are of strong interest, zeroing in on important information at a glance tends to be a much more efficient and focused. Scorecards today enable users to see clear KPIs without sifting through financial and operations reports, allowing an organization to find answers faster and waste less time in general.
Business dashboards have been around a long time. Early on, they were usually stand-alone applications that were very rigid and required experts to be designed and maintained. However, modern dashboard technologies are now fully integrated with CPM suites that also offer reporting, ad-hoc queries, budgeting and forecasting. Furthermore, the dashboards can be designed by business users to achieve desirable customization. A well-designed dashboard makes it easy for a manager to visually analyze and compare KPIs as well as other metrics, usually with charts and other visual indicators. The flexibility of today’s dashboards, particularly the peace of mind that comes with not having to constantly maintain it in order to have accurate information, has allowed organizations to spend more time focusing on high-level strategy. In other words, organizations properly using the business intelligence dashboards of today think about what to do with KPIs more than how to generate them in the first place.
Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IOT), Machine Learning and Data Mining
While most of these technologies continue to evolve, modern CPM solutions are starting to integrate with these technologies, with the ultimate goal of improving decision-making based upon improved automated analysis of internal and external financial, operational and statistical information.
Accessible and flexible reporting tools not only produce efficient decisions, they also actively engage the entire company. Consider how the reporting tool features described above can make an immediate impact on your organization. If you need assistance or help, Solver has a team of experienced professionals that can get your organization starting in building the right template for you.
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