#5 Let’s select the reporting tool

This blog is one of an eight-part series of blogs – read our introduction to see how this blog fits into the series.

Let’s assume you’ve selected your technology stack, you’ve connected some data, you’ve sent it to a data warehouse or similar, and you’re ready to create your first report…which Business Intelligence (BI) tool should you use? Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer…so let’s explore the options.

What is the over-arching reporting strategy?

Not all reports are the same…so there may not be a one-size-fits-all approach to your reporting challenge. For instance, you could have three distinctly different reporting needs:

  1. Regular internal reports and analytics – where you have a requirement for the same weekly/daily/real-time reports every week/day/hour, for internal staff. In this case, a BI tool is probably the best answer as the reports can be fully automated removing the need for manual effort.
  2. Regular client-facing reports and analytics – where you have a similar requirement for regular reports, but this time for external audiences like clients. This time you will need to consider the user experience as some BI tools would add an additional layer of licence registrations or the need to enter new passwords. Instead, you might want to consider embedding client-facing reports within an existing client-facing portal that is already familiar to your external users.
  3. Bespoke one-off reports and analytics – where you have a requirement for a one-off project, that is never to be repeated. In this case, it wouldn’t be worth going to the effort of setting up the report in a BI tool, so you might be better using the tried-and-trusted Excel spreadsheet approach for these types of projects.

We often find that a business chooses one approach for internal reports & analytics, and a different one for external reports & analytics, for these reasons.

There are dozens of BI tools on the market…so many that it can be incredibly tricky to research and compare/contrast all of them. So, here’s our approach:

  • Start with the one already in use – some businesses are already using a BI tool, and often this is Microsoft Power BI. So, start with the tool/s you’ve already got in place and consider if they can meet all your current or future requirements, before considering others.
  • Create a list of requirements – consider what your business requirements are and make a list that you can use to assess each BI tool – for instance:
    • Ability to create dashboards without using code
    • Ability to view dashboards on laptop/mobile and through any browser
    • Ability to set up role-based permissions to restrict data access to defined individuals
    • Ability to embed data visualisations within websites
    • Ability to track report usage
    • And similar…
  • Review the independent ratings sites – the ones we usually review are Gartner and G2, but also check out our independent BI tool analysis.
  • Compare the functionality of the BI tools vs your list of requirements – create a tick/cross list, or rank them 0-10, in terms of how well each tool meets your requirements
  • Compare the prices – generally the more you pay, the more you get…so a price comparison is key at this stage. Double-check that the pricing includes the ability to share data with your clients, or embed charts within websites, as these prices are usually excluded from the advertised fees.
  • Create a shortlist of 2-3 tools – be brutal and reduce the list to a maximum of 3 tools.
  • Schedule a vendor demo – as well as seeing the tool in action, you should also ask the vendor to share their development roadmap and financial strength, so you can be confident that the selected tool is future-proofed and scalable for your future business requirements.

Many BI tools are awesome – we love Looker, Tableau, Power BI, Qlik and Google Data Studio. But they’re all different, and they all have pros and cons, so choose the one that best meets your business requirements and make it work for you.

Now, you’re ready to go to #6 Implementation Plan

Now that you have selected the technology stack and reporting tool, it’s time to make a plan. So, check out our next blog in this series for some simple tips on how to create a pragmatic, realistic project plan for your business to implement.

Well, you’re in the right place. We can run the Discovery & Design programme for your business. The benefits of outsourcing to us are:

  1. OBJECTIVITY – we bring a fresh pair of eyes to your business and we’re unhindered by office politics, historical decisions, and legacy systems
  2. INDEPENDENCE – we’re technology-agnostic, so we can give you an independent view, with no vested interest in you selecting, or staying with, a certain vendor, tool, or platform
  3. AWARD-WINNING DATA CONSULTANTS – we’ve done this before…for 75+ projects and for 50+ businesses, so we can bring our wider experience to the mix

When we run a Discovery & Design programme for one of our clients, it typically takes 4 weeks, depending on the scope of the project. Most businesses want results quickly and simply…so that’s what we do – we worry about the complexity, so you don’t have to.

Find out more at https://datacubed.nz/services/