Implementing automated reporting solutions – what to consider 

Just as air and water are a necessity for people, reports are a necessity for businesses. The oldest examples of writing and reporting dates to about 3,300 BC, where Ancient Mesopotamian society used clay cuneiform tablets to record the daily beer rations for workers. Reports provide businesses with an in-depth understanding of operations, and help to deliver and communicate progress on strategic goals. Timely and accurate reporting not only helps to ensure a business is meeting regulations and improving business processes and procedures, but also provides executives with the information they need to respond quickly to change.

There has been an explosion in the amount of data businesses are producing and an increasing need to understand the data, generate information from the data and use that information to make informed decisions.

We regularly help businesses to improve the flow of information in their organisation through improved business reporting. Here we highlight some important factors businesses should consider when considering automated reporting solutions:

  1. Duplicate reports –Businesses who have moved away from manual reporting without staff buy-in may experience a duplication in report processing. This could stem from a lack of employee engagement in supporting new reporting measures, miscommunicating reporting changes and policies, a lack of trust in new technical systems and the reproduction of reports to suit individual needs.
  2. Cost – Whether reports are run automatically or manually, daily or annually, there will always be a cost associated with their production and delivery. These costs range from an employee’s time to produce the report and time spent waiting for reports, to the implementation of automated reporting systems.
  3. Time – Employee time spent on reporting tasks can be minimised through the use of technical solutions. Report automation is the scheduling of reports to automatically update and be delivered to specific end points at regular intervals. This is a popular solution for many businesses, but can require a lot of programming to set-up in the beginning. There is a further cost to businesses who don’t have platforms which support the level of automation they require. Collecting the data, cleaning it and then re-applying it can also be a timely exercise.
  4. Visual interfaces – Customisable dashboards visually represent data that can reflect up-to-date information quickly and easily. Multiple data sources can feed into a single visual interface and provide real time valuable insights. Dashboards don’t rely on manual intervention, administration can be applied quickly and data is always up-to-date. An analytical dashboard would be better suited to those identifying trends, while strategic dashboards would be used by senior management who are monitoring metrics across the business.

Freeing up resources and time leads to a direct reduction in costs and allows people to concentrate on tasks that are critical to the business. Other added benefits to report automation are the reduction in errors, more time to spend on analysing the data and the ability to deep dive into targeted areas.

Since their beginnings in ancient Mesopotamian society, reports will always be a part of doing business. However, making sure you generate relevant reports filled with easily viewed information and stakeholder buy-in will save time and money, structure business decisions with the right information and keep data transparency throughout the business.

Elisabeth Brennan