Business intelligence and data driven management are based on providing users with supporting information to facilitate their tasks and everyday decision-making.
Once the various decision-making points in a process are identified and given indicators, the information can be linked to these processes. Often, there is more than enough data contained in countless databases, Excel spreadsheets and various text files. But how can this scattered and fragmented information be made to serve our purposes?
Toni Jormalainen, who recently returned to Houston Analytics and took up the role of BI Lead, can answer this question.
“In my experience, the causes of reporting inefficiency can be found, on the one hand, in the data sources – the right things are not being measured and the content of the information is not linked to the process - and, on the other hand, the poor usability of the reporting.
Understanding the business process is the basis of good reporting in order to answer questions like:
- What are the key performance indicators relevant to process control?
- What does each indicator describe and how to interpret them?
For example, is there a significant difference that requires action between indicator X’s values 5 and 6, or is this a normal variation? In order for data to serve a business in everyday life, it must have a business owner who understands the process and how to make sense of the critical information, IT and reporting skills alone are not enough,” Toni emphasizes.
Today's state-of-the-art reporting tools make it easy to connect to different sources of data and integrate information in both small and large environments in flexible, cost-effective and secure way. When information can be simultaneously viewed from several viewpoints, it becomes more relevant to business management.
“However, everything must be based on user-friendly experience and the relevance of the reported data to the user. I have been involved in reporting development projects, where half of the existing indicators have been placed in the ‘nice-to-know’ category and then trashed. The user experience and usage of the reports has then increased significantly as a result,” says Toni.
“Depending on the situation, either static or interactive reports, or a combination of both, are needed to drive the business decision-making. The user of advanced, self-service solutions does not need to be an IT expert, because advanced and interactive dashboards mean that even a layperson can engage in data discovery and dig down deep into the reported figures. The new opportunities offered by reporting tools have thus blurred the line between reporting and ‘light’ reporting,” Toni emphasizes.
So what is the right solution for each need?
Before choosing your reporting solution, it is a good idea to test the different options available with clear use cases and to compare the results obtained with your business requirements. Tony's checklist below will help you choose your own reporting tool:
- Which data sources are used and what tool is used to build the necessary data models?
- How many data sources are Excel spreadsheets or other tables?
- What do you want to measure and what part of the business process are they related to?
- Is the reporting one-time or continuous?
- What functionalities and visual elements are the reports expected to have?
- What are the users' data understanding and analytical skills?
- Which reporting needs are mandatory, and which come under the “nice-to-have” section?
“It is a good idea to make the decision on the reporting tool together with your business stakeholders and IT department. This will ensure that the tool will serve both parties as intended. It's not worth basing the decision on a beautiful demo, but on a clear use case,” Toni adds.
Finally, one more question for Toni: Why did you return to Houston Analytics?
“I decided to return to Houston Analytics because I want to be on the front line building more efficient and more functional solutions that allow reporting, analytics and AI to change our ways of working. At Houston Analytics I’m part of a cutting edge team of the digital age that enables me to realize my mission for a wide range of applications” Toni commented his return to Houston.
Toni’s mission is to ensure that reporting and analytics genuinely serve end users in their daily decision-making. In his role, Toni will help Houston’s clients to make most out of various reporting solutions in a practical, business oriented focus.
At Houston, Toni’s BI team collaborates with the wider team consisting of data engineers, data scientists and optimization experts – allowing us together deliver state-of-the-art solutions and services for a wide range of applications.