Choosing the right reporting software for business intelligence for your SMB
While few would doubt that having access to valuable, actionable data is critical in this day and age, the abundance of data and information out there can make it difficult to know where to look for the best insights.
Every year sees more software companies enter the arena with new types of business intelligence software, all promising significant gains in the way data is analyzed and presented.
For most small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs), choosing the wrong type of reporting software can have a negative effect on not only their bottom line but also their overall productivity levels.
In this article, we’ll look at some key things you should look for in business intelligence software and also some types of reporting software you should avoid. We will answer some of the top questions business owners ask, including:
- Why use reporting software in your business?
- What are some different types of reporting software?
- How do I choose the right reporting software for my business?
- How can I implement reporting software effectively in my organization?
Read on to find out how you can ensure you’re using business intelligence software to its best effect today.
Why use reporting software in your business?
For those companies that have incorporated the use of some type of business intelligence software into their processes, reporting tools are a natural addition.
The term “business intelligence” brings to mind data analytics and reporting. In short, business intelligence software enables users to make informed decisions based on relevant data from within an organization, or even from competitor organizations.
For SMBs, the reporting and analysis of data can be a key way to help find opportunities for growth as well as the ability to make the most appropriate tactical moves.
The benefits of using reporting software are clear:
1. Increased data accuracy
Reporting software is designed to bring together information from multiple sources, allowing for cross-referencing and verification of findings that might not have been possible otherwise.
2. Faster access to relevant data
The speed at which companies can gain access to relevant data is an essential advantage in the modern business world where daily decisions need to be made based on the latest data available.
3. Improved information management
A dedicated reporting software will allow users to manage their data more effectively. This allows users to identify problems or inefficiencies within the business more readily and also helps create greater transparency for employees.
4. More efficient team collaboration
The rise of cloud-based software has made working collaboratively far easier than it used to be, with teams able to see various dashboards presented in real-time no matter where they are or what they are doing.
What are some different types of reporting software?
There are many different types of business intelligence software, with each offering its own benefits for users. As mentioned earlier, the right type of reporting software will depend on your specific needs and industry; however, there are some general categories that can help you find the right fit.
1. Dashboard reporting software
This type of reporting software allows users to create a variety of different dashboards, often including widgets with real-time data plus the ability to drill down into more granular levels of information.
2. Analytics tools
These types of business intelligence software allow users to view and analyze data that has been tracked over a period of time. By using various algorithms and formulas, users will be able to better understand trends and make more informed decisions as a result.
3. Database reporting software
This type of business intelligence software allows users to pull data from databases and reports on that information using customizable queries and calculations, leading to accurate insights far more quickly than might otherwise be possible.
4. Ad-hoc reporting software
This type of business intelligence software enables users to select specific data points without having to create queries, charts, or graphs.
It is suitable for use by data analysts or higher-level managers who need real-time access to relevant information without the necessity of creating their own dashboards.
How do I choose the right reporting software?
In order to choose the right reporting software, it’s crucial to know what you need from that software. To that end, here are a few key factors to consider when making your decision:
1. Data sources
Consider not only where your organization gets its data from but also the types of data you have access to within the organization. These sources of data will help define the types of reporting software that is suitable for your needs.
Data sources can range across a variety of applications, and the rise of data connectors has made it easier than ever before to pull this information together.
2. Timeframe of data
It’s also important to define what timeframe you need your reporting software to cover, as this will determine whether the reports and analytics tools offered by different products are suitable for your specific needs.
For example, if you’re looking at a timeframe of months or years then you’ll likely need to use an analytics product, whereas if you need data on a daily or even hourly basis then it might be best to choose real-time dashboard software.
3. Data volume and size
The size of your datasets will also determine which type of reporting software is most suitable for your needs.
Smaller companies with fewer data sources will typically be able to work with smaller datasets, whereas larger companies may need hundreds of gigabytes or more of storage space.
4. Data security and compliance
Finally, it’s crucial to know your company’s data usage policies before choosing your reporting software.
You’ll want to choose a product that is fully compliant with the latest legislation and will keep your data secure. Look for software that encrypts your information at all times and keeps it segregated from the rest of the network, especially if you’re using cloud-based business intelligence tools.
How can I implement reporting software effectively in my organization?
The first thing to do when you’re implementing reporting software is to think about your strategy. You’ll need to understand how that software aligns with your organization’s overall goals and the wider business intelligence strategy.
- What are you trying to achieve? How will this reporting software help your organization reach those goals?
- How often do you need reports, and how quickly must they be generated? Which tools enable these requirements?
- Does the reporting software provide the security and compliance that is appropriate for your needs?
You should also plan for ongoing maintenance of your business intelligence tools.
For example, if you’re using a business intelligence platform then you’ll need to plan for and install updates and patches as they become available. You should also be wary of any licensing or other hidden costs that may crop up over time.
What other factors should I consider?
It’s important to remember that your reporting software is only part of the wider business intelligence picture. Before choosing a BIS, you’ll need to consider other factors such as:
Operational support and integration: Many reporting solutions require extensive preparation and planning before they can be deployed successfully in your organization. You should consider how easy it will be to integrate new tools with your existing infrastructure.
Your choice of tools: Your choice of reporting software should be based on long-term goals and company strategy, but it’s also important to consider the wider business intelligence picture.
For example, you’ll need to consider operational support and integration as well as any other tools that may require data from your chosen reporting platform.
At the end of the day, choosing business intelligence software boils down to finding the right mix of price, functionality, and compatibility. If you’re short on time or expertise then it might be worth hiring an outside consultant to help you make this decision.
What are some reporting mistakes that could harm my company?
Purchasing the wrong type of reporting software can end up causing more harm than good. If you have the wrong type of dashboards for your company, it can lead to poor decision-making based on incorrect information and misinformation.
This is especially true when the data isn’t accurate or reliable due to human error or because it’s incomplete.
Managers and executives can often jump to conclusions based on what is displayed by a poorly designed or configured dashboard, and this can result in revenue loss or even the failure of a company.
Make sure your business intelligence software will provide reliable and accurate information to you and your employees. If you’re unsure about what kind of reporting tools you need for your business, talk to an expert who can recommend the right solution for your specific needs.
Choosing the best reporting software for your business is important to not only your business but also to your end customers. There are many factors that need to be considered when choosing which type of reports and data will be most beneficial to you.
How do you ensure that the chosen reporting software will provide reliable and accurate information? Talk with an expert who can recommend the right solution for your specific needs.
When you find the right tools for your reporting software, you’ll be able to provide your employees with helpful information that will lead them to good decisions. You’ll also be able to uncover the next big idea for your company with effective business intelligence.