How Automated Reporting Leads to Deeper Insights

maslowshierarchyofneeds

How Automated Reporting Leads to Deeper Insights

The average organization dumps a massive amount of resources into creating reports, and for good reason. Reporting and analytics are the key to understanding any business. They hold a mirror up to the organization. They show you where you need to improve, and give you an idea of what to do about it. Yet the majority of organizations rely on a manual approach to reporting. Based on our own surveys, almost 90% of Netsuite users export saved searches into Excel. From there, they spend hours every week manipulating data to build the company’s most critical insights. The process is manual, and it happens week after week.

Many organizations don’t realize that the manual “pull, analyze, report, repeat” model of reporting comes with a hidden  cost. Not only do you waste time creating reports, you miss out on the opportunity to generate deeper, more nuanced insights. In the information age we live in, insights like these are a requirement to take your business to the next level.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

maslowshierarchyofneeds

In 1943, Abraham Maslow published a paper describing a person’s “hierarchy of needs.” Basic, physiological needs are at the bottom and form the basis of survival. With these needs met, one can focus on higher-order needs like love and freedom. 

For an organization, basic KPIs form the basis of survival. However, the time-consuming process of building reports manually leaves little time to dedicate to higher-order reporting needs. Without automated reporting, reports can only uncover the most critical, first-order insights.

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When you spend all your time building basic charts, you can’t focus on higher-order insights. Your understanding of your organization stays constant. Automated Reporting 2

While basic charts are critical, they only offer a general view of the business. You miss out on the kind of advanced insights that reveal patterns, trends, and problems. In the long run, this makes it hard to make the right decisions at the right time. In these competitive, data-driven times, this can mean the difference between success and failure.

The Value of Automated Reporting

With automated reporting, informed by real-time data, you can set up base-level reporting once and for all. Once basic reports are in place, they update themselves automatically. So instead of building the same report every week, you can build reports that address the next level of your reporting needs. As you continue to build new reports, your understanding of the organization deepens.  

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With automated reporting in place, every report you build adds another level of insight.

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For example, Jonathan Holley, the Marketing Analyst for Bailey Hydraulics, used to spend hours building weekly sales reports in Excel using saved searches from NetSuite. By automating these sales reports inside of NetSuite, Jonathan could spend his time working directly with his CEO on deeper analysis.

Real-Time Data for Business Insights

Jonathan Holley of Bailey Hydraulics analyzing data with his CEO

It’s the same story at Candy.com. Once CTO Gary Cifatte had basic reporting in place, he built charts to help warehouse staff. “We got iCharts thinking it would be primarily a management tool,” said Cifatte, “today, by far our biggest user of these reports is the warehouse staff.” Analysis now benefits everyone at the company, not just executives. Cifatte added, “I used to spend hours every day building reports. Today, I spend a day a month creating new reports. In that one day I can create three or four brand new reports and publish them to production.” Instead of spinning his wheels figuring out basic information, Gary could spend his time building tools that help the business.

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Monthly Order trend chart by Candy.com

More Benefits to Automated Reporting

The constant, time-consuming generation of reports creates other problems as well. Fortunately, automated reporting can solve most of them. For one, automated reporting means there aren’t multiple reports going around. There’s no more confusion over who has what. “They have the report in real time, and they don’t have to worry if their data is up to date or not. They know it is, and they know exactly where to find it,” says Holley. People don’t have to wait, or fish around for “the latest.” The information you need is always right there. 

Speaking of “the latest,” reports based on saved searches exported from NetSuite rely on static data. By the time you have a report in your hands, it’s old news. “We use Netsuite because it’s live, but as soon as I pull the report, it’s dead,” said Holley. With real-time reporting, the data stays live, and it’s updated constantly.

Automated reporting also makes it easy to share information. Traditional reports aren’t easy to understand, especially for people who don’t look at them every day. Furthermore, when every report requires so much work, they’re usually made for an audience of people who “need to know.” With automation, everyone from the CEO on down can benefit from your data. Information is more accessible, and visualizations make reports easier to understand. Brian Krosschell, Finance Director at fairlife told us, “we’ve constructed it in a way where they can look at it, and in 20 or 30 seconds, be informed.” It’s easy to create specialized reports for different departments, different jobs, or even specific employees.

Survival Versus Success

The “pull, analyze, report, repeat” model of data analysis has served the business community for years. It’s proof that every business can benefit from data analysis. For many organizations, it’s a basic need for survival. However, to remain competitive, you want to take your business to the next level through deeper, more nuanced data analysis. Automated, real-time visual reporting allows you to stop thinking about data, and start thinking about what you’re going to do with it.

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