Companies every day find that they are losing money. The waste is not always apparent, sometimes the waste is built in. How do they find these points of waste and save money?
Daily, hours are spent trying to disseminate data and get it into the hands of the right people to make decisions. Standard reporting practices are costing companies time and money. They are using applications that give them non-digestible information; or worse, lock that information behind an expensive and unnecessary pay-to-play user model. Many are doing their best to work with spreadsheet reports that ultimately become out-of-date before the first graph is even placed on the page.
This begs the question – what do you really need in a reporting tool?
Opening the Data Doors
Working in the BI industry for just about a decade at iDashboards, I have found and seen success with companies that are willing to open the “data doors,” – taking the time to work with vendors and other systems to unlock the power of the data. Just about every company now offers software-specific dashboards. These dashboards are one-sided or maybe not the best option to tell us the story we are looking for. The best analysis, however, happens when you are able to mix and match the data. Pulling data from your CRM and putting that with your marketing and financials can give the best picture of what is happening in the business.
Reporting should be quick, repeatable, and as near to real-time as we can make it. An employee who spends hours creating reports and blasting them out every hour is incredibly wasteful and completely unrealistic, although often found to be the case for those caught in a primitive data culture. They need a system that will do the data modification and will also handle the distribution. It’s impracticable to ensure users will login to a system daily or hourly to get the information they need. Let’s face it, we are all too busy and our time is valuable.
Your distribution system should be nimble. Users want to digest the information you provide them in a way that is comfortable to them and drives them towards more actionable decision-making. For some, they like the printed PDF report they can hold in their hand. Others, however, want to use their PC or mobile phone to pan though the numbers when they have a moment to do so. Don’t underestimate the ease of using kiosks to distribute your message.
Reporting should be centered on the needs of the users, whether that be clients, customers, internal employees, or even the public. From the way users each interpret best, as just discussed, to the content of the data itself they need, a tool should be agile enough to encompass those options. This will not only gain trust of the data being represented, but also guide those who are in need of comprehendible, granular data for quick, actionable decisions.
See the Project Through
With a robust reporting tool, you are not limited by the challenges that come with system silos that each function in their own structured manner. Instead, you get a system inclusive of all sources, maintains cost-effective data management, and is still capable of meeting the varying preferences that come unique to every organization.
Another critical component of a reporting tool expands on the idea of providing information to users in a way that is most understandable. Beyond the medium in which data is communicated, the visual representation of that communication should also be displayed constructively.
What does this mean?
When choosing how to represent your data, a chart should be indicative of what the data is truly saying, not built on the bias of what the end user wants or expects to see as a result. That being said, a chart or graph has to first accurately portray the relationship of the data – whether it be a distribution, relationship, composition, comparison. In order to achieve this, a reporting solution has to provide a multitude of options or the builder is left deciding on a chart that will only leave viewers confused and in need of explanation.
Your chosen chart should then display the information through methods that are psychologically more effective – using color, space, and formatting. Doing so implies that factors of balance, emphasis, rhythm, variety, and unity are being kept in mind. Your data can only be so powerful if it is unable to be architecturally descriptive and visually cohesive.
By setting these elements into place, interpretation by users will then more easily follow. Time typically spent figuring out what a misrepresentative, generic graph is saying; or even worse, sifting through tabular reports with no visual aid, can now be allocated to proactive decision-making. A more comprehensive list of chart and customization options also generates efficient decision-making and time savings because users can choose to drill down into granular pieces of related information. The more details a chart can provide through subsequent charts, the more accurate and confident a decision can be made, and the more data-driven a company can be.
iDashboards works to support you through each of these important and necessary steps towards making your dashboard process successful. Interested to learn more? Contact us today to get started!
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Even if you’re not the artistic type, this guide will have you thinking like a graphic designer and making informed choices that support your data narrative.