When it comes to data, a popular buzzword that frankly seems unavoidable is business intelligence. Regardless of industry, it seems the idea of business intelligence has infiltrated the ranks of business leaders everywhere. The concept of business intelligence reporting has swept the data universe by storm, providing an enormous number of reporting solutions to those in need. These solutions range from robust providers like Sisense and Looker, to open source solutions such as Apache Superset.
But before we dig too much further into business intelligence reporting, let’s understand what that even means.
What Is Business Intelligence Reporting?
Business intelligence (BI) reporting, often referred to as data visualization, is the process of leveraging systems to prepare, model, and analyze data with the goal of sharing actionable insights visually to relevant stakeholders. The term dashboard is almost synonymous with BI reporting as the end result of this process often leads to the creation of dashboards.
So why has business intelligence reporting become so popular? With the advent of online analytical processing systems (i.e. Snowflake), complex multi dimensional queries were able to be answered at a speed which traditional online transactional systems could not achieve. This development paved the way for reporting tools, like Sisense and Tableau, to ask complex questions to the systems where data is stored and return the results quickly, thus the birth of real time reporting. This enables business leaders and decision makers to have access to the data critical in making informed decisions in real time.
Value Created by Real-Time Reporting
While real-time reporting is certainly a benefit of business intelligence reporting, let’s explore in more detail five benefits of utilizing business intelligence reporting:
- Faster time to insight
- Insight accessibility
- Trusted insight
- Elimination of waste
- Self service
1. Faster Time to Insight
As we’ve already briefly mentioned, with the development of analytical databases, reporting tools can now communicate with these databases and deliver rapid insight.
If we take a step back and examine a typical data stack, we’ll see that reporting is typically towards the end, if not the last process established within a data stack. This means it is reliant upon other processes and systems to enable the reporting solution to delivery quality insight. Therefore, in order to receive faster time to insight, upstream processes need to be developed to support this type of reporting. We call this data centralization.
With an optimized modern data stack in place, data visualization tools can be used to share insight from your data to any party you deem relevant. These visualizations tools can connect to your data on a real time basis or on a level of frequency that may be determined (i.e. every hour). This enables users of reports and dashboards based on this data to gain real time insight into the business. Not only that, but it centralizes the source of truth. In other words, all users are seeing the same reports and can make decisions against the same insight. This eliminates the need for spreadsheets to be shared and for individuals to have to do their own analysis which may both vary in comparison to their coworkers and also take valuable time to perform, during which time a decision may be too late to be made.
By leveraging BI reporting, all users gain insight from the same central source of truth and can see insight from that data update in real time, allowing decision makers an ability to make real time business decisions.
2. Insight Accessibility
As we’ve just seen, by leveraging BI reporting, all users are viewing insight from the same source. This allows everyone to make decisions based on the same data, eliminating variance between traditional forms of analysis. But, there is a deeper level of value here. The key word here is that all users can use this information. Decision making no longer has to be siloed to those with technical skills or access to the right spreadsheet.
By using BI, an organization can manage exactly who should and should not have access to reporting. This eliminates the risk of a spreadsheet or an ad hoc analysis getting into the hands of an unintended party. Additionally, for those who have access to BI reporting, there is no longer the need to explain what tab in a spreadsheet a certain graph is on – dashboards clearly communicate the information needed in a concise manner. Finally, when using a dashboard instead of a spreadsheet, users no longer need to know formulas or pivot tables, allowing users of any technical expertise to gain insight.
3. Trusted Insights
While this benefit of BI reporting is more holistic in nature, it ultimately fuels the decision making made through the insight from BI reporting. As we’ve discussed, data visualization tools are typically connecting to data from a database. This database may be designed with a data warehouse architecture, allowing multiple data sources to be accessible in the same location. This means that there is a centralized source of truth from where the data visualization tool(s) obtains data.
This is an important concept because it enables every user with access to view and make decisions based on the exact same insights within that warehouse, allowing all users to be aligned on what they are seeing, why certain decisions are made, and what actions could be taken. By having a centralized source of truth, you enable end stakeholders to make informed decisions based on trusted data.
4. Elimination of Waste
Elimination of waste is a benefit that is often overlooked when considering the benefits of BI reporting. There are two forms of elimination to focus on: business waste and data waste.
Business waste is simply the result of identifying waste in the operations of the business through the use of BI reporting. This type of waste is often difficult to identify without consistent reporting. By leveraging a data visualization tool, decision makers have constant, real time access to all of the trends and behavior of the business, allowing them to identify areas of waste and help streamline operations.
Data waste comes from the identification of data channels that are not providing value and are costing more to retain then the value that is obtained from them. Again, data waste is often hard to identify until you can compare it to other data and consistently have reporting associated with the data. For example, you may find that your organization is using two CRMs, and there is so much overlap between the two that you can both remove one of the CRMs immediately saving the company money, and purging the data from the removed CRM from your data stack, alleviating your data team and wallet.
5. Self Service
Many organizations that have adopted BI reporting have preexisting data teams. By adopting BI reporting, there are two major benefits that result. First, end users of the reporting can now self-serve themselves with the insight they need. Secondly, with end users now able to serve themselves, data teams are simultaneously freed up from data requests traditionally asked of them.
We’ve seen users view real time insight from a trusted centralized data source that’s accessible to anyone and can be self served. This may sound too good to be true, but when set up correctly, this is the power of BI reporting. Additionally, if an organization has a preexisting data team, these data teams can now focus more on proactive insight from data, and less on reactive work resulting from an overwhelming number of requests from stakeholders.
Business intelligence reporting enables organizations to leverage their data in a way that delivers insight from a trusted source, in real time, to any user. This enablement brings unquantifiable amounts of value to your organization, resulting in faster time to revenue and decreased operating costs. However, to properly set up a BI reporting solution, you need to have a functioning data stack in place that can serve data to your BI reporting solution. If you are implementing a data stack, or need help standing up a BI reporting solution, we’d love to start with you today.