Is your Business Intelligence Report obscuring more than it is revealing?

  • Richard Thelwell
  • October 16, 2015

business intelligence report obscureBusiness Intelligence isn’t new. For twenty years, businesses have been using Business Intelligence reports to improve their understanding of what’s going on in their sales, marketing, distribution and manufacturing operations. But after all that time, many businesses are still searching for answers.

Business Intelligence reports provide part of the picture, to be sure. But not the whole picture.

And that’s because in many cases, Business Intelligence reports are obscuring crucial parts of it. It’s as if you’ve got a magnifying lens—but the glass itself is partly dark.

Why? Let’s take a look.

Business Intelligence reports aren’t easy reads.

Traditionally, Business Intelligence reports have been just that: reports.

And Business Intelligence reports can be useful, make no mistake. But in terms of gleaning insights from data, today’s newer and better approaches beat them hands down.

Because, quite simply, these newer and better approaches do more than just print out long lists of products, or customers, or orders.

Approaches such as dashboards, for instance. Or ‘heat maps’. Or sparklines. Or any number of charting and data presentation techniques, few of which your standard Business Intelligence report will necessarily deliver.

It’s not that Business Intelligence reports are wrong, or redundant, or obsolete—it’s just that while there are times when your Business Intelligence needs will be met by a Business Intelligence report, there are many more times when they won’t.

So if this sounds like your Business Intelligence reports, then it could be time to upgrade.

Business Intelligence reports look backwards, not forwards.

Which products did we sell most of, last month? Which were the biggest customers, last quarter? Which salespeople sold the most, last year?

These are the type of questions that Business Intelligence reports best answer. But in today’s business world, such rear-mirror queries are a relatively small part of a typical business’s information needs.

Because they basically focus on the past, when it’s too late to change anything.

business intelligence reports looking back
In many cases, business intelligence reports are guilty of looking back rather than forward.

What’s much more useful is information that arrives in time to make a difference right now—by highlighting adverse trends and issues where managers still have room to put in place remedial actions.

And once again, if your Business Intelligence reports are more backwards-looking than forwards-looking, then it could be time to think about an upgrade to new, better Business Intelligence reporting functionality.

Business Intelligence reports lack spontaneity.

Traditionally, Business Intelligence reports have been written by IT analysts familiar with coding the requisite SQL that’s involved. That isn’t to say that Business Intelligence reports can’t be written by IT-savvy, SQL-savvy end users, of course—simply that this is unusual.

The problem is that in the typical business, IT analysts are a fairly scarce resource. And that’s particularly true in the case of smaller and medium-sized businesses.

As a result, coding Business Intelligence reports and ad-hoc queries tends to become something of a bottleneck. Long delays result, and many companies put in place Business Intelligence report-writing approval processes.

business intelligence reports bottlenecks
The process of building business intelligence reports can often cause bottlenecks to form around key individuals.

All of which serves to remove a lot of the spontaneity that end users might ideally desire. In short, when faced with an unusual situation, they can’t simply say: “That looks odd—I’ll run a report.”

Which is where self-service Business Intelligence reports come in. Using simple-but-powerful ‘point-and-click’ tools, self-service Business Intelligence reporting enables end-users—even those who aren’t IT-savvy—to quickly call up the Business Intelligence reports that they need, when they need them.

The result? Critical insights and Business Intelligence, delivered in time to be actionable and useful—rather than when the IT department can get around to coding the requisite reports.

Once again, if your own Business Intelligence reporting lacks a self-service capability, then it could be time to upgrade to something more modern.

Business Intelligence reports: the bottom line.

Business Intelligence reports aren’t obsolete. Business will continue to need them, and use them.

But in a growing number of instances, they are no longer the best way of fulfilling your Business Intelligence needs.

Need to find a better way to create Business Intelligence reports? Download our free guide to get started.