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Understanding the Do’s and Don’ts when Adopting a Reporting Strategy

Kate McFarlane, Client Partner, Decision Inc. UK

Putting a monetary value on organisational data is a daunting task considering how integrated it has become to overall business success. It is an invaluable asset that provides insight for a company to grow and enhance its competitive advantage and operate more efficiently.

In the ultra-connected world where customer expectations revolve around real-time feedback, decision-makers have no choice but to move beyond being reactive and adopt a proactive mode of operating, leveraging the likes of predictive analytics, machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies. These sophisticated technologies are designed to integrate with existing processes to deliver even more value from the data at hand.

It extends beyond business intelligence and information management functions and incorporates every process across business units with reporting as the foundation. By learning from existing information, and guided by the experience of employees, this machine learning can automate many of the previously manual-intensive processes. This will enable employees to focus their efforts on delivering higher cognitive value to the business and help the organisation better meet  their strategic objectives.

The First Step

The biggest stumbling block is taking the first step. Companies must make the decision to invest in the process. Waiting for the perfect opportunity such as when its data is clean, the environment is stable, or business distractions are minimised, will result in no action being taken.

It is important to forge ahead, identify analytics as a key business strategy, and start by exposing the data. The business must move through an iterative and agile process, refining its analytical capability, and ensure that each iteration adds value to the organisation and builds trust with the business users.

Furthermore, the management team must use reporting and analytics to track performance so they can measure any successes (or failures). For their part, the supporting teams must have access to the same information (relevant to their business area) and see additional detail in a user-friendly way. Important by-products of this organisational focus on unlocking the value of data in the reporting strategy is the ability to conduct data cleansing and understanding the values inherent to the organisation.

As the organisation grows in analytical maturity, the ability to use advanced analytical calculations and scenario modelling effectively becomes possible.

Business Decisions

The journey from data to decision-making through reporting is a complex one. It requires a concerted effort to align operations. From there, the company must account for its information needs. This means data must be customer and product-focused as well as factor in the operational efficiency required to grow the business.

Other components to be included range from analysing the internal and external data required to make business decisions.

This encompasses everything from data availability, its accuracy and granularity, historical requirements, and the ability to link between data sets. 

An important consideration is the frequency of information availability. Data must be up to date to ensure business decisions can be made to positively impact the organisation. Reporting timelines can help guide this and link to the decision-making expectations from leadership. Having the best data in the world means very little if management cannot access it when they need it.

Information must also be presented in a manner that takes the user experience into account. This is where the automated distribution of dashboards and operational reports will encourage users to access the information and make the adoption a far smoother process.

Finally, change management is a fundamental activity and must include user training and support on the reporting process journey. All told, the reporting process changes significantly once the value of data is understood and innovative technologies are harnessed to aid decision-making.

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