/ Moving from Excel to BI tools: how to build a better report

Moving from Excel to BI tools: how to build a better report

Traditionally, an Excel report has been one of the only ways to present insights from data in a business setting. In the past, this has been sufficient. But with the rapidly changing world of data, Excel is no longer up to the task. Fortunately, with the innovation of business intelligence software, you no longer have to remain stuck with the limited capabilities of Excel.

When data is collected and presented in a way that is easy to understand, executives can make quick decisions based on the information. Business intelligence tools enable organizations to seamlessly gather data from a variety of sources and analyze it to expose crucial insights. This is much harder to do using Excel alone.

In this article we will discuss what to consider when creating a report as well as make the case for choosing to use BI tools over Excel for report building.

 
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Why is Excel no longer sufficient?

Excel has many useful features and is a perfect tool to perform some tasks, but when used alone to build reports, it is simply not an adequate solution.

In order to be truly useful, reports must be built with data that is current and accurate. While Excel reports are reliable if the underlying data is accurate, they are static, as is the data stored in Excel spreadsheets. Organizations get the most value from reports that are dynamic by using real-time data that is constantly being updated.

Regardless of the tool you use to build reports, let’s look at some things you’ll want to consider as you begin the report-building process.

 

Preliminary details

Before you begin building your report, a few preliminary details need to be addressed. Consider the following:

Determine your goal. What is it that you’re hoping to learn from this report? Make sure what you’re hoping to find out is clear before beginning. A report is not very useful if it doesn’t answer any business questions.

Decide which data points are essential for the report. It’s important to include a sufficient amount of data in your report, but trying to include too much information will make your report overwhelming and difficult to read. If you’re looking for a clear overview of certain data points, keep it limited to those metrics.

Decide which aspects of your data need the most clarification. Sometimes, one or two metrics don’t make sense without some explanation. You may want to include a description of these numbers within the report itself.

 

Building a report

The data sources

Now that you’ve identified which data points you want to highlight in your report, you need to identify where that data resides and figure out how to access it.

Unlike Excel, full-stack BI tools are able to connect to a wide variety of data sources and bring in real-time data so you can always have the most up-to-date reports.

Transforming data

Oftentimes the data you want to use to build a report is not in the correct format. In order to create effective visualizations, you may need to transform some of the data, or do some calculations.

Visualizing the data

Once you have brought in the data and transformed it if necessary, it’s time to analyze the data through visualizations. Choose charts that effectively convey the insights provided by the data. You want to be sure that the visualizations are visually appealing and are clearly labeled.

Choosing organizational elements

Make sure that the organizational structure of your report is clear and easy to follow to deliver all of the necessary information in a clear way. Additionally, be sure that each visualization included in the report is organized in such a way that creates a coherent flow throughout the report.

 
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Why BI tools are the best alternative to Excel reporting

Excel reporting has been the primary tool for business analysis for the past several decades. While it has many strengths, it can pose some unique challenges as your business scales, requiring even more advanced reporting. This is where business intelligence (BI) tools can be used to further enhance your Excel reporting.

BI tools are easy to use

While there can be a steep learning curve with Excel, modern BI tools are extremely user-friendly and built for the business user in mind. If you are at all familiar with spreadsheets, you can get reports created in minutes with a BI tool.

BI tools allow for deeper analysis

BI tools are specifically designed for data analysis. No matter where your business data is, it can be extracted and transformed to create useful reports in your BI tool. What’s more, a Bi tool is able to handle much larger workloads when compared to Excel, which means you can analyze data that is millions or even billions of rows long.

 

Conclusion

Excel is a good tool that can help your business in several ways, but falls short when it comes to building intricate reports. Luckily, BI tools are built specifically for this purpose, and they can greatly impact the way your business monitors and uses its data.

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