Businesses are always finding ways to optimise their operations and plan future activities. Data collection is invaluable for this purpose because it allows management to see what’s going on in the organisation, both today and tomorrow.
But with companies collecting more data than ever — the biggest challenges revolve around collecting, securing, and using all of this information to generate insights that align with business goals.
After all, collecting information across the organisation is a time-consuming and expensive task. Generating useful reports for making broad analyses takes even longer, resulting in finance teams having to wait for the information they absolutely need. And that’s not all. You still have to ensure the data you use is relevant and accurate.
If you’re serious about growing your business, you need to learn how to turn your data into actionable insights. Read on to discover some common challenges you may face when handling your next business intelligence and reporting project.
What good is a report if it lacks access to relevant data? Data availability is one of the most common challenges organisations face.
In many cases, data may be available while still being unusable in a report. Ensure the data you’re using is both correct and usable based on business context. Some questions to ask yourself include:
You may find that some data is unusable since not all information is meaningful to your current needs. You may also require specialised integrations to make the data both usable and available.
Integration is a challenging task, but also the key to making data accessible and centralised.
Now, the idea of integrating your own applications may seem easy. After all, how hard can it be to send data from one location to another? The truth is: poor integration may cause problems as low-quality data is populated between the essential systems your company relies on.
Here’s the deal. Your data likely doesn’t live in a single location if your company hasn’t integrated the different applications it uses. You will likely need to work with an integration provider to ensure your data is standardised and usable within your reporting and dashboard tool.
Seamless integration is the key to ensuring your data is available.
Learn more about the benefits of integration as a service here.
The goal of any report is to highlight how you are progressing towards your goals. Unfortunately, this often leads to overdesigned reports trying to visualise too many things at once.
Focus on a clean and simple look when it comes to designing reports. Instead of flashy visuals, think about the best way to represent the data, whether it’s in the form of graphs, maps, or something else.
Although modern data and dashboard tools provide an interactive experience, there’s no reason to overdo it. The goal is to strike a balance between functionality and usability by creating reports that highlight your KPIs and trends as effectively as possible.
Modern design is all about symmetry and balance. However, when it comes to reports and dashboards, avoid adding unnecessary tiles and design elements to fill empty spaces.
The goal is to make your report as effective as possible at showing relevant information. That doesn’t mean your reports need to look ugly, but rather, they should be concise and easy to follow.
Companies today are collecting more data than ever. This abundance of data often complicates reporting projects because companies feel the need to use it all.
Let us start by saying not all data will be relevant to your report. Keep organised by only including the information that’s applicable to what you’re trying to say. For instance, the dashboard should contain the executive summary, while more granular data should be found deeper down.
Data dumping only serves to make reports unfocused and more cumbersome to read. Remember that reports are designed specifically to produce value. If your teams can’t determine what that value is, your reports may be using too much data.
What good is a report if you can’t quickly identify business context, trends, and the why behind it all? Avoid burying critical information too deep into the report.
A report must have a clearly established goal in mind. Don’t make your reader drill down to uncover the main business context the report is trying to highlight. A quick look at the dashboard should be enough to figure out what the report is attempting to accomplish.
Establish all the relevant key performance indicators (KPIs) early and use them to establish the necessary context. For example, you may have a graph that shows monthly gross profit and pair it up with trend lines showing sales, costs, and other metrics that drive gross profit. This ensures essential context into what’s impacting your KPIs is easy to find.
A common example is a graph displaying gross profit in previous quarters, drawing a trendline, and making decisions based on that information on how to increase revenue further, while ignoring the fact that better managing costs may be a more sensible place to focus on.
One of the biggest challenges for new data reporting projects is standardising which calculations you will use for your KPIs. It can be challenging to get teams and upper management aligned.
For example, let’s look at gross profit. Agreeing on the best calculation is no easy task when almost every industry calculates gross profit differently. And even in the same industry, some companies may use different calculations to determine their KPIs.
The key takeaway here is to identify the calculations you want to use at the very beginning of the project. As long as everyone is on the same page, the report will reflect the data accurately and consistently.
Getting management on board with your business intelligence project is crucial. Any skepticism in the minds of decision makers will trickle down, resulting in a lack of confidence in the data, KPIs, and reports.
Convincing everyone to change the business’s operations can be difficult, but is essential for generating long-term interest in the project’s scope. Ensure decision makers understand the scope of the project, what it’s trying to achieve, and whether they agree with the steps required to generate those insights.
It’s common for companies to invest too little in the early stages of scoping the project. This can lead to underestimating what’s required to successfully complete the project.
Remember, useful reports rely on fundamental KPIs to compare against, yet not all companies track the right ones. You may need to spend additional resources to build the necessary KPIs needed.
Ensure from the beginning that you have an understanding of the performance, costs, and timelines for your data reporting project.
This will make it easier for you to track progress, verify that your report is aligned with your short- and long-term goals, and that reports are providing measurable value.
Data security is an important issue today. Relying on traditional reporting methods like Microsoft Excel can leave your sensitive data exposed to unauthorised parties.
It’s important to have the right systems in place to ensure your data is safe and secure in transit, at rest, and in use. You may need to work with a specialised service provider to ensure your integrations and data reporting tools aren’t exposing your data to unnecessary risk.
Transforming data into powerful insights is the goal of every organisation in today’s information-driven market. That’s why data and dashboard tools are a must-have for every business.
Are you looking to initiate a new data reporting project? Do you want to drive more value out of your data?