The ability to generate accurate, relevant and timely reports is critical if a company is to remain competitive in today's marketplace. However, as many business managers know, traditional (static) reporting methods have a range of shortcomings. In this blog we will discuss a few key solutions to the challenges of static reporting.
Challenge: Reporting takes too much time
Many executives are all too familiar with the long, and often frustrating, wait for IT or finance to build and return reports. If additional information is needed, the request for extra or custom reports can further the delay. Executives can no longer rely on the information in weekly, monthly, and annual reports to make critical business decisions, they need up-to-date business data at their fingertips.
On the flipside, extra reporting is often the last thing your IT and finance team wants to spend time on. They don’t take so long to generate reports because they are incompetent – instead they manage a myriad of competing priorities. Additionally, many ERPs are just slow at generating reports once the query has been entered.
Solution: Give data-access to end-users
By implementing a business intelligence (BI) solution, reporting wait times are eliminated. This is because BI solutions like Phocas accesses up-to-date business data and presents it back to you in a user-friendly format. As a matter of fact, executives and managers can designate a schedule for the generation of standard reports. For instance, you can schedule a weekly report to be generated for your staff meetings. However, if you are in a meeting and find you need more information, this is often accomplished through a few simple button clicks. Phocas has recently released the financial reporting solution which also allows managers to interrogate the financial statements like the Balance Sheet and Profit and Loss Statement at any time throughout the month.
Challenge: Reporting does not give me the level of detail that I need
Traditional reports provide a summary of information without much detail. However, when a metric reveals an abnormality, a detailed report becomes necessary. This requires IT to generate a new, custom report to identify the underlying data driving the abnormality.
Another drawback to static reporting is the potential for missed opportunities. Static reports provide only the information you request. You can't examine what you don't know is there. For instance, your sales manager may request a breakdown of sales revenue by region. The sales figures may appear to be on target. Yet, a detailed report would show a different story - that while overall sales are on target, one over-performing product is actually masking the declining sales of another product type. With this information, your sales manager can intervene to boost the sales of the underperforming product, thereby increasing sales revenue overall.
Solution: Dynamic reporting
The dynamic reporting available with BI, enables non-technical users to click on a metric and drill down into the underlying data. The user can ask questions and follow their train of thought to discover the answers. For instance, you may discover that your sales team is not going to meet expected targets for the month. With BI you can drill down to view sales by product group, region, sales rep, and more, so you can quickly identify and address the contributing factors.
Challenge: I have to manipulate and combine reports in spreadsheets
Companies often store data in multiple sources such as CRMs and ERPs. After reports are created from each source, this data must be often combined so it can be accessed from a single source, typically a spreadsheet. While spreadsheets have their uses in business, they are a not good option for reporting. Spreadsheets are notoriously prone to errors. A mistake in a single cell will be carried throughout and invalidate the entire report. Additionally, when a spreadsheet is being shared, it is nearly impossible to guarantee that everyone is using the most current version. Misleading spreadsheet data can lead to significant financial loss, as many companies have discovered.
Solution: A system that integrates data from multiple sources
A BI solution like Phocas is the ideal solution. Phocas is designed to integrate seamlessly to your various data sources and funnel this disparate data to consolidate it into one discrete location. Once your data is converted, it is accessible on a BI dashboard where it cannot be accidentally altered or deleted.
Challenge: I have to be at the office when I’m creating reports
Managers who travel between locations or typically work from home must have the flexibility to access their data when they are away from their desk. However, ERP and CRM systems must often be accessed from the office, or from a computer at home. This hinders a manager's ability to work on-the-go, meet with customers, visit and improve other locations or complete work in the privacy of their own home. When a manager is tethered to their office, their efficiency and effectiveness may be seriously impacted.
Solution: Mobile data access
Most top-tier BI solutions provide mobile access to your data via your mobile devices such as a phone, tablet, or laptop. This enables you to explore your data, and create dynamic reports wherever you go. Use your tablet to present charts and reports with your customers or with your purchasing manager on the warehouse floor. Mobile accessibility enables you to make decisions and offer a quick response where you may be.
Challenge: My team does not act on information from business reports
Firstly, it is difficult for employees to know how to act on the information in a report when it doesn't offer enough detail to guide their decision-making. This may lead them to feel they are shooting in the dark. Secondly, when an employee feels they are being micromanaged, they won't develop a sense of autonomy and personal responsibility in their job role. Without this sense of ownership, employees may not take the initiative to independently act on the information.
Solution: Give employees (restricted) access to data
To encourage your team, provide them with access to the data that is critical to their role. When your employees can independently query the data and gain insights relevant to their position, they become more autonomous, take more ownership, and begin going to their managers with solutions rather than problems. However, since employees don’t need carte blanche access to all company data, Phocas is designed so IT can manage the flow and access to data by setting user restrictions. Your sales team may have access to the sales data they need and not the salaries of their colleagues.
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