Self-serve reporting: information workers need—yes!—information

  • Richard Thelwell
  • April 27, 2015

self-serve reporting information workersThese days, we’re all information workers. And that’s because ERP systems have automated much of the drudgery of business processes, leaving us to manage and monitor those processes. The only problem? We’re information workers—but without all the information that we need. To the rescue: self-serve reporting.

Consider the facts. Even though the ERP system is supposed to be the single over-arching system of record within businesses, how many of us maintain our own, separate systems? Usually on spreadsheets? The answer: pretty much all of us. Which is where self-serve reporting comes in.

And that’s because maintaining all those individual spreadsheets and personal systems collectively consumes vast amounts of time, and leads to multiple—and often conflicting—versions of the truth.

But with self-serve reporting, people can finally get the information that they need in order to be assured that things are happening as they should be, and are able to adequately answer the questions that they’re asked about their own individual areas of responsibility.

Without all those spreadsheets and personal systems.

Self-serve reporting: overcoming the transaction-centric database

It’s no secret why people feel the need for all those spreadsheets and personal systems, of course. ERP systems are excellent transactional tools, but their databases are optimised for speedy transaction processing, and not reporting.

And if you run reporting processes against a transaction-optimised database, then two things happen.

First, the speed of transaction processing slows right down, which isn’t good news for users elsewhere in the system. In extreme cases, we’ve seen examples where business-critical processes such as order entry have to be suspended, so that month-end or year-end financial reports can be run.

self-serve reporting slow database
Without self-serve reporting, running complex queries against a database can be a frustrating process

And second, those reporting processes are painful affairs, as well. They run slowly, they require individuals with SQL skills to code new reports and maintain existing ones, and there’s generally a backlog of reports that users—who are information workers, remember—want, but which haven’t yet been coded.

With self-serve reporting, both problems disappear. Which is why, of course, self-serve reporting is fast becoming the reporting technology of choice for businesses struggling to get the information that they need from their ERP system.

Businesses like yours, perhaps.

Self-serve reporting: leveraging a Cloud-based data warehouse

So how does self-serve reporting work? Before answering the question, let’s give self-serve reporting its full name: Cloud self-serve reporting.

That’s because although information workers use simple point-and-click tools to construct their reports, those tools are actually running against a data warehouse located in the Cloud.

A data warehouse? There’s nothing mysterious about data warehouses. A data warehouse, in short, is simply a database that’s been optimised for reporting, not transaction processing.

self-serve reporting cloud data warehouse
A cloud data warehouse can help optimize your self-serve reporting process.

So it could simply be a reporting-optimised version of your ERP database, or—just as possibly—a data warehouse containing information drawn from your ERP database plus other systems within the business: quality systems, finite capacity scheduling systems, or MES systems, for example.

No matter: located in the Cloud, your data warehouse contains all the information that your information workers need in order to make better decisions with self-serve reporting.

Self-serve reporting: point-and-click simplicity

Which they can do very easily, thanks to those simple point-and-click tools, of course.

Select the required fields, add any applicable selection and sort parameters, click the button—and there’s the report. In seconds, thanks to the raw horsepower of Cloud-based servers devote to running reports, and not processing ERP transactions.

self-serve reporting point and click
Point and click tools can allow users to easily conduct self-serve reporting

And these reports, of course, provide your information workers with the insights and knowledge required in order to work more efficiently, and fulfil their roles more effectively. As many reports as they want, whenever they want them—without involving the IT function at all.

Self-serve reporting: what it says on the tin

In short, whatever their role within the business, and whatever businesses processes they work within—sales, manufacturing, inventory management, purchasing, or distribution—your people will be finally be able to leverage the information that’s held within your ERP system.

Without requiring analysts to write reports. Without slowing down the processing of transactions. And without needing to create and maintain dozens of—potentially conflicting—spreadsheets and personal systems.

Put another way, your information workers will finally have what they need in order to work at maximum effectiveness: information.

How can Self-serve reporting give your employees access to the information they need? Download our free guide to find out more