Reporting Capabilities: What’s the Cost?

Jeff Duce
Senior Manager, Product Management

Have you ever considered the cost of poor reporting to a business? Regardless of size, all businesses need various reports to operate effectively. Data reporting provides visibility into key performance indicators (KPIs) that offer leaders opportunities for growth and direction. Unifying the direction of retail departments depends on disseminating up-to-date information within reports so that leaders make aligned decisions reinforcing a company’s vision. However, issues arise when reporting technologies and capabilities fall short of departmental needs, causing the business more heartache than efficiency. It can be hard to get the right KPIs in front of the right leaders when reporting functionality is rigid and restricted.

Let me explain using an example. Once, I was involved in a report reduction project. This was no small feat; it involved many retail associates within multiple departments. Transparently, I had a difficult time from the onset seeing value in the effort. However, my opinion changed as we got deeper into the project. The two most impactful outcomes from gathering the internal reports were the report redundancies, and most importantly, the generation cost. The data storage, report housing, department distribution and workforce expenses were shocking. Before the project, these were issues our team had not considered. These costs were underestimated because the departments were operating in silos and communication on the topic was nonexistent. After the project that drastically changed. We needed reporting unification for company unification.

With that in mind, below are some considerations for those who, like me, had not considered all the costs associated with inefficient reporting, but desire a change:
1. What reports do you need?
2. What is the cost to create, manage and distribute those reports?
3. What people benefit by having the reports?
4. Is the report self-generated or created by someone?
5. Is the data conveyed within the report accurate?
6. Does the report convey information that is actionable?
7. Is the information available to various levels of your organization?
8. Is the data timely and relevant?
9. Is the tabular data needed or will graphics add value?
If your answers to the prior questions left an anxious feeling in your chest, you might consider this: should your reports be outsourced? Generating reports in-house can get costly, quickly. Opening yourself up to data redundancy, interpretation conflicts, and labor expenses may be deterrents from the in-house option. Working with reporting vendors to manage data storage, define report workflows, develop report formats, and define a distribution strategy can be economical. Whether you choose to generate reports in-house or via outsourcing, the best solution will provide you with the data you need when you need it.

Let us take this one step further. The best vendor resources in today’s technology market are using front-end, web-based solutions called dashboards to communicate departmental KPIs to users. What is a dashboard? Imagine the digital version of your car’s dashboard. Using custom-built graphics and tables, real-time data are showcased for your business and department leaders. The graphics and tables communicate your designated KPIs in the most easy-to-digest fashion, making every piece of data actionable. In addition, because the dashboards are web-based (i.e., Software as a Service), users can log in at any time from any device, including mobile options.

In conclusion, reporting has a cost. As businesses grow, it can be easy to let expenses get out of control. However, through an honest reflection of your reporting capabilities and needs, you can embark upon a journey to reduce inefficiency and implement solutions like outsourcing, dashboards, and more to upfit your organization.