Self-Service Reporting: Business Intelligence As It Should Be

  • Ed Thompson, CTO
  • February 27, 2014

self service reporting and business intelligence as it should be delivered: fast, easy to use, powerfulTake a look at a typical medium sized business, and you’ll typically see a mid-market ERP system in use, generally sourced from a second-tier or third-tier ERP provider. Such systems do a good job of transaction processing, but even their most passionate advocates will admit they’re not great at reporting.

Generally, they fall down in three particular respects. First, the range of standard ‘out of the box’ reports isn’t great. Second, the associated reporting tool requires far more IT resource to be engaged on report writing than management initially imagined. And third, those reports—either standard or custom-written—must be run against the live database, slowing it down.

Pretty soon, what you end up with is an organisation with an expensive bottleneck in building custom-written reports, and an IT system that slows to a crawl as people try to run the reports that do exist. And not long after that, you discover a subterranean world of management-by-spreadsheet, as people build spreadsheets to get around the inadequacies of the reporting system.

In short, instead of one version of the truth, you’ve suddenly got dozens.

Self-service reporting unblocks the bottleneck

Not surprisingly, a growing number of these small-to-medium sized businesses are seeing Business Intelligence as a way of fixing this mess.

The logic: Business Intelligence systems generally have better report-writing tools, and Business Intelligence systems also run against a data warehouse, not the live database. So companies reckon that they’ll have more powerful reports, without slowing the system to a crawl.

All of which is true. But it still leaves end users dependent on skilled IT analysts who must actually write the reports that are needed to manage the business effectively.

Enter Business Intelligence as it should be—namely, Business Intelligence systems with a rich self-service reporting capability.

Self-service reporting? Oh, I get it!

What’s interesting is that many small-to-medium sized businesses don’t always see this at first. Which is perfectly understandable—traditional ‘on-premise’ Business Intelligence vendors rarely mention self-service reporting, because their solutions don’t generally offer it.

But when these small-to-medium sized businesses do see that they can unblock this expensive report-writing bottleneck, the realisation is a very powerful one.

Because suddenly, their people can run exactly the reports that they want—when they want, as often as they want, and without slowing down the ERP system.

Self-service reporting. Pure power, delivered.

One customer of ours uses the word “empowerment” to describe this freedom. Because self-service reporting doesn’t just give people the tools they need to perform their jobs better, it also empowers them to search out new ways of visualising and interpreting the data that the business generates.

Another customer speaks of the peace of mind that comes from knowing that those multiple versions of the truth have finally been consigned to the scrapheap. Because self-service reporting doesn’t just get you Business Intelligence reports faster—it handily eliminates all those spreadsheets that were in existence prior to self-service reporting.

Is self-service reporting complicated to learn? Will staff need special training? Well, if specialist training is required, we’ll happily either run a course for customers, or train their own internal trainer.

But the reality is that self-service reporting is less complicated than building spreadsheets from ERP data, and infinitely more accurate.

Self-service reporting: making a difference

At Matillion, as you might expect, we’re big fans of self-service reporting. To be sure, it’s a part of the solution we sell: Cloud-based Business Intelligence projects that go live in weeks rather than months, delivered on an affordable, fixed-price basis.

But it’s also something which we see make a big difference to our customers’ operations. Even when those customers hadn’t initially appreciated the power of self-service reporting.

Self-service reporting—it’s Business Intelligence as it should be.

Download our free E-book to find out more about self-service reporting.