Automating Complex Reports

Key Points

  • Training power users in the business intelligence toolset and assisting in the automation of complex data integration and analysis will produce immediate and quantifiable benefits
  • If the target users are spreadsheet gurus, choose a tool with tight spreadsheet integration. There are a number of tools in this category that allow users to automate spreadsheet based reporting within the spreadsheet environment
  • Report automation generally creates value over and above the time saved in the preparation. When information is quicker and cheaper to obtain many other opportunities for its use may emerge

Analysts and power users can spend a significant portion of their time producing regular reports and analysis. Because the analysis is complex to compile, the power users often believe there is little scope for efficiencies.

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Automating complex reporting

Analysts and power users can spend a significant portion of their time producing regular reports and analysis. Although they are experts in the technology available to them – typically spreadsheets and personal databases – these tools are not ideal for creating and publishing regular analysis. Because the analysis is complex to compile, the power users often believe there is little scope for efficiencies.

Training power users in the business intelligence toolset and assisting in the automation of complex data integration and analysis will produce immediate and quantifiable benefits. Freed from the routine workload, the user can concentrate on analysis.

Report automation generally creates value over and above the time saved in the preparation. When information is quicker and cheaper to obtain we may find many other opportunities for its use.

Spreadsheet gurus

If the business community are spreadsheet gurus then nothing short of full spreadsheet functionality will satisfy them. In this case, I would advocate using an analytical database or BI tool with tight spreadsheet integration where the users can work directly with the BI tool and data within the spreadsheet environment. Using these tools, users can quickly automate routine reporting and analysis because they are already familiar with the spreadsheet tool and data. They can continue to use the spreadsheet to create the layout and presentation but the content will now update automatically when the underlying source acquires new data. There are a growing number of offerings in this space so it is worth researching the alternatives.

If spreadsheet integration is a priority then you should inspect candidate tools closely for this functionality. If the BI tool simply exports data to a spreadsheet format this is less than ideal as users will still have to perform manual data integration and routine formatting in the spreadsheet environment. We may just exchange one manual process for another.

See Also