What to look for in the Perfect Ad Hoc Reporting Tool
Reporting is becoming an increasingly important tool for developing business intelligence. Firms need software that allows their non-technical personnel to evaluate data and gain insight from it.
Ad-hoc reporting is a solution to this common problem. Here, one person with technical expertise connects the software to the original data source and sets the parameters of interaction. Non-technical end-users can then use heuristic tools and intuitive interfaces to generate reports, without having to understand the deep technicalities present in the background objects.
The effect of this is to free up time for your IT department. You no longer need to burden technical professionals in your organization with the task of generating multiple reports. Instead, every non-technical end-users can create value by themselves, often with very little training.
These reporting tools, therefore, have become increasingly prevalent throughout the business world. They allow organizations to develop business intelligence fast without substantial upfront costs.
But how do you know if you’re onto a good thing? What should you look out for in a quality ad-hoc reporting tool?
It Needs To Be Easy To Set Up
Setting up ad-hoc reporting can be a challenge if the software is not sufficiently flexible. Modern businesses use a myriad of data sources, from flat files to databases. Software, therefore, needs to be able to extract relevant insight from these sources without the need for complex meta-structures in the background, translating from one to the other.
It Needs To Be Robust
End-users want ad-hoc reporting tools that enable them to extract relevant insights fast. These services, therefore, need to be more than glorified versions of Excel. They must be robust to the analytical needs of the firm.
Practically speaking, that means including features that allow users to drill down into data, create charts and heatmaps, and sort information using advanced filters. Simply tacking extra features onto standard spreadsheet solutions does not add value.
It Needs To Be Simple To use
If non-technical end-users cannot figure out how to use ad-hoc reporting software, they won’t use it, and companies will lose out. Thus, quality solutions must make use of visualization tools and intuitive interfaces wherever possible. They must not assume that individuals have prior knowledge of coding, statistical analysis, or even basic mathematical concepts, such as a frequency, histograms, and algebra. They may not.
Quality tools use wizards. These take users through step-by-step processes, providing intuitive options and instructions at every stage. They then give users optional pathways to develop their understanding further so that they can benefit from a more feature-rich environment.
It Needs To Be Cloud-Based
The vast majority of companies use cloud-based networking to facilitate their IT operations. For that reason, it makes sense for ad-hoc reporting tools to operate across the cloud. Ideally, users should be able to log into their reporting account, access their dashboard, and then manipulate any data source they wish, regardless of terminal or location. Administrators can set up the reporting tool on a central server. Then users from across the organization (even those working remotely) can benefit.
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