Reporting automation tools go hand in hand with helping business owners to spearhead key scalability decisions.
For these individuals, report interpretation boils down to understanding data in a digestible format that highlights the business’s strengths and weaknesses altogether. This way, stakeholders and internal decision-makers can pitch in to suggest areas for improvement, predict the near future outcome of an ongoing workflow, and do lots more.
The million-dollar question is: not all reporting automation tools are alike. They might have similar features or baseline deliverables, but depending on business requirements, the final outcome of such report-building tools always varies.
Plus, there’s the intimidating factor of searching for the best reporting software that won’t set your business back in terms of finances. Expensive programs are easy to come by – whereas the right automated reporting tool is a little hard to pin down.
This post explores different aspects of reporting automation tools, why they’re a big deal, and how to select the best tool to help you get started.
What Are Reporting Automation Tools?
Reporting automation tools are software applications designed to streamline the process of collecting, analyzing, and presenting data in a report format, which enables businesses to make informed decisions faster.
The benefits of report-building tools aren’t only limited to reducing manual labor associated with compiling reports, improved accuracy and timeliness when producing reports, and greater visibility into important metrics.
They provide valuable insight into customer behavior, market trends, profitability, and other key performance indicators (KPIs) that cannot be easily observed through manual methods or visual analytics alone.
In that sense, it is safe to say that the primary goal of an automated reporting tool is to reduce the time invested in report creation by automating tedious tasks such as data extraction from multiple sources and aggregation into one comprehensive report.
Reporting automation can also enable users to condense complex data sets into easy-to-understand visuals that aid in decision-making processes. Furthermore, automated reporting can help organizations recognize patterns more quickly than if done manually, helping gain deeper insights needed for better business outcomes.
Key Highlights of a Reporting Automation Tool That You Need To Look For
The following features are recommendations based on a general analysis of automated reporting tools. There’s a lot more that goes into selecting the right software.
Here are some of the key aspects that you need to look for, at the time of selecting such program(s) for long-term business use:
– Scheduling capabilities to automate the generation, distribution, and archiving of reports.
This includes features such as setting up recurring schedules for report generation, automated email notifications when reports are ready, and being able to store and archive report data in easy-to-access formats.
– Integration options with existing business systems or 3rd party apps
The ability to integrate reporting automation software with existing systems such as accounting software, other relational databases, Schema connections etc.
– Comprehensive reporting options:
Reporting automation tools should be able to generate different types of reports including complex charts, graphs, financial statements, etc., providing an overall view of the business at a glance.
– Data governance capabilities:
Tools with data governance features ensure that all relevant users have access to accurate data which is secure from external threats.
– Alerts and notifications for potential risks or anomalies in the data: These alerting mechanisms help businesses stay informed about any potential issues related to their data analysis efforts.
Is the reporting tool customizable in terms of dashboard creation, filter options, and open-sourced front end where you can select which elements to show, or not to show?
What Are The Types of Reporting Automation Tools That You Need To Know?
Before selecting a reporting automation software, it is essential to determine the type of tool you’d be eventually using.
Signing up for an incompatible program, or wrong software isn’t much of a vendor’s fault, since these decisions are based on the buyer’s research and impulse.
On top of that, pulling the plug after paying up for a program often results in a hefty irrecoverable cost factor that sets back business owners in terms of breaking even.
Here’s what you need to know about reporting automation tool types:
Code-Based Reporting Tools
Code-based reporting automation tools are software programs designed to facilitate the development of reports created from data collected through manual or automated processes.
But here’s the caveat…
These tools require scripting and coding skills to debug or compile reports.
In addition to that, if your business requirements are plentiful, you may need to hire a coder for setting up automations, and integrations in your reporting automation tools.
Overall, they are a step up from automated processes, as more customization options are available. With code-based reporting automations, feel free to connect disparate systems for comprehensive business intelligence capabilities.
Open Source Reporting Tools
Open-source reporting automation tools are software applications that provide a way to automate the process of collecting, generating, analyzing, and disseminating reports.
They allow users to quickly generate reports from multiple data sources and can also perform complex analysis tasks such as creating dashboards to visualize data trends.
Commonly used open-source reporting automation tools include Dotnet Report, JasperReports Server, BIRT Report Designer, Metabase Reporting Toolkit (MRTK), Jupyter Notebook, and Tableau.
Dotnet Report is an interactive report-building tool for people who are looking to double down on productivity and key business decision-making.
The platform comes with a multitude of features, such as drill-down reports, scheduled reports, customizable layouts, multiple dashboards, and vice versa.
As far as the open-sourced aspect is concerned, Dotnet Report has introduced it in the form of a low-code environment where users can customize their reports from different angles.
You can also view automated reports via different filter options to help focus on the most important KPIs for internal and external stakeholders.
In addition to that, this platform also has custom charts, data visualization options, and an overall minimalistic interface that places everything where it can be easily located – even by less tech-savvy users.
JasperReports is an enterprise reporting application developed by Jaspersoft Corporation which supports interactive web-based dashboards.
It can create custom expressions or functions in addition to regular SQL queries or RESTful APIs within the report definition itself.
BIRT Report Designer
Moving on, we’ve got BIRT, it’s an eclipse plug-in created by Actuate Corporation which enables users to visually design rich graphs such as tables, charts areas maps, etc. directly inside IDE frameworks like IntelliJ IDEA.
At the same time, BIRT also provides access to parameters related to custom variables within their report definition itself making it an ideal platform for experienced analysts who need customizable solutions within shorter deadlines.
Business Intelligence Tools
Business intelligence (BI) tools are a type of software application used for reporting and analysis.
The purpose of these tools is to help organizations make more informed, data-driven decisions. Think about these platforms laden with reporting automation tools for marketers, mostly.
As a result, BI tools typically involve advanced analytics capabilities on top of traditional reporting functions such as displaying data in graphical form or generating custom reports.
They may also include voice recognition and natural language processing for a better understanding of conversations about the data.
These tools are used in all kinds of industries, from financial services to healthcare.
For example, a bank may use BI tools to identify trends in customer spending habits or track the performance of its loan portfolio over time; alternatively, a retailer might use them to analyze marketing campaigns or product sales figures.
With enterprise-level systems like Marketo Business Intelligence (MBI), users can run real-time analytics across multiple databases and generate comprehensive reports with visuals for easy insights into operations such as inventory management, supply chain performance, customer service response times, etc.
Likewise, Microsoft Power BI offers powerful visualizations components like dashboards and reports so businesses can get an up-to-date picture anytime they need it—and at an affordable price point too!
KPI Dashboard Tools
KPI Dashboard tools are reporting automation tools designed to give businesses access to up-to-date performance metrics.
A KPI dashboard allows a business to measure, compare and review important operational data to manage their business operations more effectively.
The dashboard typically displays visualizations of the various key performance indicators (KPIs) that have been identified by the business organization. These KPIs can be based on customer satisfaction, financial performance, operational efficiency, or any other metric applicable to their industry or organization.
The advantage of a KPI dashboard is that it gives managers and executives an understanding of their current business performance at any given time so they can make real-time decisions based on real data.
Whenever you’re considering multiple reporting automation tools, don’t forget to match them up against your business requirements. Some programs are either way too advanced, or have extra reporting features that you may not need for an additional cost.
Eventually, whether you choose to sign up for an automated solution, or go manual with something like Microsoft Excel, do know that reports play a vital role in affecting future ended business strategies.
The aforementioned tips will help you to stay ahead of the curve.
What are some of the common red flags that people often ignore when selecting report-building tools?
Common setbacks or warning signs to selecting reporting software are plenty. However, the following is a big No when you are looking to buy a software:
- Weak or limited analytical capabilities
Some tools may offer basic reporting capabilities, but fail to provide the robust analysis requirements of a modern business environment.
Poorly designed tools may also be unable to provide meaningful insights and predictive analytics, even if they have access to high-quality data sources.
- Low scalability
Report-building tools should be able to scale as your company grows without having to invest in unnecessary additional software or hardware resources.
- Poor user experience
If a report-building tool takes too long for users to learn how to use it properly, your team will struggle with adoption and won’t get the most out of their investment in the technology.
A complicated interface can also slow down productivity by making small tasks more complex than necessary and wasting employees’ valuable time on mundane functions instead of more value-added activities like improving processes or boosting customer service levels.
- Limited design options
Many report-building tools come with a limited selection of charts, dashboards, and templates which can reduce creativity and flexibility when constructing reports for different audiences or purposes within an organization.