Self-Service Reporting: Why Every Business Should Be Building Their Own Reports

by Mark Peterman

It’s a common question to those in the business intelligence sphere:

Can you build this report for us?

Many leaders feel as though they have a good handle on what the needs of their organization are. They know that they’ll need this report or that analysis at certain stages of every day, week, month or year, and they’re simply looking for someone or something to supply exactly that on a consistent basis. Reports almost have a branding problem – they’re seen as valuable, but somewhat rigid. They supply set information before being gently placed in the wastepaper basket.

While this attitude might be commonplace among many business leaders, it’s certainly not helpful to the development of a modern day organization. That’s because the possibilities opened up by new tools of business intelligence (BI) have changed everything.

BI is about garnering information from hard data, and making informed decisions based on that information. Self-service reporting is the process of autonomously obtaining that information – it allows you to build your own reports, rather than relying on those provided by a computer program, an I.T. department or a third party. And it is perhaps the single greatest tool at any organization’s disposal when it comes to the growth and development of your business.

So why should your organization be utilizing self-service reporting?

Give a man a fish…

…And you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. Self-service reporting is knowing how to fish for information in the big sea of data; to instantly and effectively sate your organization’s hunger for knowledge and insight. Relying on others to build your reports is to be given fish. Sure, you might not starve, but it doesn’t give you the opportunity to grow in quite the same way.

With the amount of data that is now available to businesses, the possibilities offered up by self-service reporting border on limitless. If you have the ability to construct a report for any query that you can dream up, it’ll be far easier to identify opportunities and make better business decisions. Knowledge is power, and self-service reporting gives you greater access to that knowledge.

Streamline your business

Traditionally an organization’s reports are produced by automated programs, an I.T. department or a third party reporter. With self-service reporting, using tools like Tableau or Power BI, the power is placed in the hands of those who need the reports, enabling them to quickly obtain the information that they need, rather than sending a request through to another department or waiting for this week’s report to be automatically generated.

Not only does self-service reporting eliminate the need for an I.T. department to generate special reports, business intelligence will also eliminate the need to manually gather data and compile it into a spreadsheet. BI will automatically pull together data from disparate sources, generating comprehensive reports in moments. With self-service reporting anyone – from the CEO to the janitor – can gain instant access to rich, role-based analysis, saving your organization an incredible amount of time and money.

Gain some trust in your source

If you source your data from disparate systems, and if your workers or I.T. department are forced to manually construct reports out of this disparately sourced data – perhaps by copying and pasting information into an Excel spreadsheet – there will understandably be some hesitation in committing to the insight gained. It only takes one bad keystroke to skew the data and thus the entire report, and this results in less analysis of the data, and more argument over its veracity.

BI self-service reporting automates this process, removing that ever-fallible human element. Ultimately utilizing a Single Source of Truth (SSoT) is also vital to ensuring that your reporting – be it self-service or otherwise – can be fully trusted.

Be proactive rather than reactive

As data ages its usefulness begins to wane. To use days-, weeks-, or months-old data to make important decisions about your organization today can be the equivalent of choosing your clothing based on yesterday’s weather. Unfortunately traditional business reporting systems often aren’t efficient enough to offer up the latest and greatest data in good time, leading to organizations adopting a reactive attitude, lest they make a bad decision based on irrelevant data.

BI self-service reporting utilizes the most up-to-date data, and allows a user to gain insights from it quickly and easily – i.e. as soon as new data is made available rather than weeks down the track. This allows your organization to adopt a proactive attitude; to gain insight from fresh data and forecast what is to come, enabling you to manoeuvre the business appropriately. Such instant insight allows you to quickly:

  • Identify under-served territories
  • Discover new placement opportunities
  • Expand into new distribution channels
  • Cost cut by accurately identifying and discontinuing unprofitable product lines sooner
  • Price products more profitably
  • Manage promotional and incentive programs with fewer resources and less risk

It’s time to service yourself

Sure, your organization needs the answers. But far more importantly it needs the ability to find those answers, and find them accurately, efficiently and effectively. Self-service reporting offers just that. It’s the way forward for any modern day business concerned with continued growth and staying ahead of its competitors.

The technology is here, it’s just a matter of your organization being brave enough to get out of its traditional reporting comfort zone, and step into the BI self-service reporting future.