Matillion BI Key Concepts – Self-Serve Reporting

  • Matillion
  • January 30, 2013

The two most popular requirements we hear when talking to prospective customers are: speed of implementation; and easy to use, self-serve reporting.

Matillion BI delivers self-serve reporting straight to your web browser.  You can access or build a report in (literally) seconds to get straight at the information you need.

Here’s how….

Types of report

We offer 3 types of self-serve report.  All of them are really easy to use.

  • Table – this is what you’d traditionally think of as a report.  Columns, rows, sub-totals and filters.
  • Cross-tab – this is more like an Excel PivotTable, but even simpler to use and built in seconds (without needing to know how to build a PivotTable)
  • Charts – we like to call this “data visualisation”.  Funky but easy to use interactive charts and graphs

How we use reports?

    1. User wants to access an already-defined report in the system
      • These guys may want to use drop-down boxes or filters to control what their report shows them
      • They will want their data to be up-to-date, automagically
      • They may want to download reports as PDF, Excel or Word
      • We call these users, ‘Run’ users (because they’re running reports).  We call interacting with Matillion BI in this way, ‘Run’ mode
    2. User wants to ask and answer a question which they haven’t thought of before – so they need to self-serve and build a new report
      • These guys want to be able to choose what data goes into their report easily
      • They want to explore the data intuitively, without special skills
      • They will want to filter, drill-down and pivot
      • Once they have the answer they want, they may want to save their report to use again later or to share with others
      • Most importantly, this must all be fast and easy
      • We call these users, ‘Full’ users
    3. User wants a report sent to them directly and on a schedule
      • This could be managers, sales teams or even customers and suppliers
      • They want their report with just the data they need
      • They want it in the format they prefer (PDF, Excel, Word, Mobile access etc)
      • We call these users ‘Report Recipients’

One person could be all of these user types at different times of the day or different days of the week.  A CFO may want to explore some data in the morning; use a report he/she/someone else has defined previously, later in the day;  then on their way home, have the days sales figures emailed to them automatically.  That’s all fine.  These are the 3 “modes” of use we talk about here at Matillion.

Examples – Running an existing report

To access a report, all a user needs do is either type its name into the search box, or use the ‘View Your Reports’ button.


From here they can see all the reports they have access to, or the ones that match the search they entered.


To view the report they simply click it – so two clicks from home page to data.

This is what a ‘Table’ report looks like in ‘Run’ mode.


This particular report is showing Sales Orders taken in the current month, where Gross Margin was less than 5% or greater than 40% Note: this was an actual requirement from a customer who wanted to spot bad business or too-good-to-be-true business, which in the latter case was usually the result of sales staff typos.

We can see a number of things going on in the report:

      • A nice friendly title
      • Columns and rows, as you’d expect
      • Sub-groups – in this case breaking the report down by Sales Rep and Customer Name
      • Page controls – to allow us to roll-forward and back through the report
      • Conditional formatting – highlighting high margin orders in blue and low margin orders in red

Using the buttons on the top right, the user can:

      • Filter the report using drop-down boxes


In this case, they can filter by Sales Territory, change the high/low percentages or change the date range.

      • Export to a format of their choice


There are further options available by clicking on the column headings:


You can filter, choose formatting (colours, fonts etc), sort and also apply conditional formatting (used in the example above to highlight high margin orders in blue and low margin orders in red).

Examples – Creating a cross-tab style analysis

To create a new report or analysis, the user simply clicks ‘Create Report’.

You select the data you wish to analyse from the Matillion BI Glossary, which contains no complicated field names but instead lists all of the business terms you are already familiar with, and tool tips to show what each field means and where the data came from.  The Glossary also means you do not need to worry about joining tables together, and certainly never need to write a line of SQL (you can read more about the Glossary here).


Analysing the data is then really easy.

You add measures (e.g. Net Value, Cost, Gross Margin, Quantity, Discount etc) by either dragging them onto the cross-tab, or just double-clicking them.

You can then analyse these measures by adding dimensional fields (e.g. Customer Name, Product Group, Date etc) to the rows or columns in the same way.


This screen shot shows an analysis of top-selling products, by Year and Product Group.  There is a drill-down, from Product Group, to Product Category to specific Product Name.  In the measures (the numbers) we can see we are analysing Net Value (revenue).

You can easily exclude/focus-in on specific data by right-clicking on any column and choosing ‘Keep Only’ or ‘Exclude’.


You can sort data, in this case to identify top selling products and categories, by right-clicking on any column heading.


You can click on any number you see in your cross-tab to “zoom-into” that data.


Of course you can also drill down into categories as you build them up, simply by pressing the ‘+’ symbol.


You can also filter the data.  In the screen shot above we’re looking at top selling products across a whole company by year.  If we wanted to know what the top selling products were for a specific customer, it’s again really easy.

Right-click on ‘Customer Name’ in the Glossary and choose ‘Create Filter’…


…a filter is created for you.  Select the customer you want from the box, and the report refreshes instantly.


You can save your analysis cross-tab at any time to return to later.  You can also use it to create a new saved report which can be shared with others to use in ‘Run Mode’.


Example – Scheduling a report to be sent directly to your inbox

Let’s go back to our “High/Low Margin” report.  Let’s say we’d like to have it sent to ourselves or to our team automatically, maybe as a PDF attached to an e-mail.


Find the report in the normal way, right-click on it, then choose ‘Schedule’.


Select the filter settings you’d like to apply (e.g. only data about your own customers).

Choose a schedule and the time of day you’d like the report to be sent.


Select a file format (Excel, PDF, Word, CSV, HTML etc.) and punch in the e-mail address(es).


That’s it, you’re done.  Management information delivered straight to the inbox, automatically.

You can set up multiple schedules for one report and use the filters to customise who gets what.  So you could setup a report called “Payment History” with a customer name filter, then have it scheduled to send each customer their own payment history every month.


Using Matillion BI you can quickly and easily self-serve to access or create reports and get at the information you need quickly.  There are no technical skills required – it’s all simple to use and web-browser based.

Because Matillion BI is in the Cloud, you can access reports and create analyses from the office, from home or with a mobile device.

You can learn more about the key concepts of Matillion BI, such as: Dashboards, Mobile Access, Microsoft Excel Integration and the Glossary in other blog posts in this series.