/ 5 ways BI tools automate Excel reports (and more)

5 ways BI tools automate Excel reports (and more)

Excel reports are one of the most effective ways to collect and analyze data. But they can be time-consuming to create and maintain. Some companies utilize entire teams to run queries, manipulate data, and build reports.

While this is a method that teams can use to get the job done, it’s not the most efficient way to go about it. Business intelligence (BI) tools can automate many of the tasks that go into creating an Excel report.

When you understand how to practically leverage a BI tool, you can avoid the mundane, time-consuming tasks that come with Excel. In this article, we are going to break down five ways that you can automate Excel reports (and more) with a BI tool.

 
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What is a business intelligence tool?

Before we dive into how to use a BI tool to automate Excel reports, let’s first define what a BI tool is. In short, a business intelligence tool is software that helps you collect, organize, and analyze data.

There are many different types of BI tools on the market. Some are designed for specific industries while others can be used by companies of any size and in any industry. The features and capabilities of BI tools vary, but the goal is always the same: to help you make better decisions by providing insights that you wouldn’t be able to get from Excel alone.

When used to analyze data within a company, BI tools can give you a competitive edge. That’s because they allow you to see patterns and trends that you wouldn’t be able to find with Excel alone.

Here are just a few of the ways that BI tools help you use data more effectively:

1. Data ingestion

BI tools can connect to data sources, both internal and external, and pull in data automatically. This means that you don’t have to manually download files or enter data into Excel.

2. Data transformation

BI tools can transform data so that it can be more easily analyzed. This includes tasks like cleansing data, aggregating data, and joining data from multiple sources.

3. Data analysis

BI tools provide a variety of ways to analyze data, including built-in reports, charts, and visualizations.

4. Data sharing

BI tools make it easy to share reports and dashboards with colleagues. This way, everyone has access to the same information and can make decisions based on the latest data.

5. Scheduled reporting & dashboard creation

With BI tools, you can schedule reports to be generated automatically. This means that you always have the most up-to-date information without having to run the report yourself.

6. Data-driven alerts

You can use BI tools to set up alerts that notify you when specific conditions are met. For example, you could receive an alert when sales reach a certain target or when inventory levels are low.

 

How to automate Excel reports with a BI tool

Now that we’ve answered the question, “what is a business intelligence tool?,” it’s time to take a look at how you can use a BI tool to automate Excel reports.

But first, why automate Excel reports in the first place?

There are many benefits to automation, including:

1. Increased efficiency: Automating Excel reports can save you time by eliminating the need to run the report manually.

2. Reduced errors: When you automate Excel reports, you can be sure that the data is accurate and up-to-date. This is because the BI tool will pull in the latest data from your data sources.

3. Improved decision-making: Automated reports allow you to always have the most up-to-date information.

This way, you can base decisions on the latest data, which can lead to better results.

4. Increased collaboration: When you share automated reports with colleagues, everyone has access to the same information. This can help to improve decision-making and collaboration within your team.

 
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Now that you know the benefits of automating Excel reports, let’s take a look at how to do it.

1. Schedule automatic report generation

One of the great things about BI tools is that they allow you to schedule reports to be generated automatically. This means that you don’t have to run the report yourself, saving you time.

To set up automatic report generation, you’ll need to specify when you want the report to be generated and how often. This will determine how up-to-date the data in the report will be.

For example, you could set up a report to be generated daily, weekly, or monthly. Or, you could set up the report to run every time new data is added to your data source. The types of reports that can be generated automatically include:

  • Sales reports
  • Marketing reports
  • Financial reports
  • Inventory reports
  • HR reports

By automating the right reports, you can be sure that you always have the most up-to-date information.

2. Create a report template

Another way to automate Excel reports is to create a report template. This is a pre-formatted Excel file that contains placeholder values for the data.

When you want to generate a new report, you can simply fill in the placeholder values with the latest data. This is much faster than creating a report from scratch each time.

To create a report template, you’ll first need to format the Excel file the way you want your reports to look. This includes things like adding headers, applying formatting, and adding charts or graphs.

Once you’re happy with the format of the file, you can add placeholder values for the data. These placeholders can be anything you want, but they should be easy to remember.

For example, you could use the following placeholder values:

1. {{date}}: This placeholder will be replaced with the current date.
2. {{sales}}: This placeholder will be replaced with the sales data.
3. {{inventory}}: This placeholder will be replaced with the inventory data.
4. {{employees}}: This placeholder will be replaced with the employee data.
5. {{customers}}: This placeholder will be replaced with the customer data.

Once you’ve created your report template, you can save it and use it to generate new reports quickly and easily.

3. Generate reports in multiple formats

When you use a BI tool to automate Excel reports, you’re not limited to generating reports in Excel format. You can also generate reports in other formats, such as PDF or CSV.

This is helpful if you need to share the report with someone who doesn’t have Excel. Or, if you want to generate a report in multiple formats (such as Excel and PDF), you can do so with a BI tool.

To generate a report in multiple formats, you’ll first need to select the format you want to use. You can then specify the data you want to include in the report.

Once you’ve done this, you can generate the report and it will be saved in the selected format.

 
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4. Automate report generation with macros

If you’re familiar with Excel macros, you can use them to automate the generation of reports. This is helpful if you need to generate a large number of reports or if you need to generate reports on a regular basis.

To automate report generation with macros, you’ll first need to create a macro that contains the steps for generating the report. This macro can be as simple or complex as you want.

Once you’ve created the macro, you can assign it to a button or keyboard shortcut. Then, whenever you want to generate the report, you can simply run the macro.

5. Share reports and dashboards with colleagues

If you need to share reports with colleagues, you can do so using a BI tool. This is helpful if you want to collaborate on a report or if you need to share information with others.

To share a report, you’ll first need to select the report you want to share. Then, you can specify who you want to share the report with.

You can also specify whether you want to allow others to edit the report. If you do, they’ll be able to make changes and save the changes back to the original report.

If you need to share a dashboard, you can do so in a similar way. Dashboards can be shared with colleagues so that they can see the same information that you’re seeing.

This is helpful for collaboration and for keeping everyone on the same page.

 

Use BI to enhance your Excel reporting

If you want to improve your Excel reporting, consider using a BI tool. BI tools can automate report generation, transform data, and generate dashboards and visualizations. With a BI tool, you can get faster, more accurate insights and make better decisions.

When your company has the best access to accurate and timely information, it can make better decisions about everything from product development to marketing campaigns. Consider using a BI tool to automate your Excel reports and improve your decision-making process.

Check out the available BI tools today and take your Excel reporting to the next level with automation and more.

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