Data are proliferating at high speed. One of the consequences is that businesses need to use advanced online reporting tools to handle these data.
Current estimates suggest that we generate over 2.5 quintillion bytes of data daily. This pace is only accelerating as the Internet of Things expands, dumping ever more data into servers all over the world. Due to the volume and velocity of these data, the timeframe within which businesses can analyze, plan, and act on intelligence has contracted significantly. Consequently, this environment compels companies to be increasingly agile in their decision-making and information-sharing processes. Therefore, the majority of forward-thinking corporations are seeking to identify an online reporting tool that fits their needs.
Reporting is essential to business, as companies cannot manage what they cannot measure. Whereas previously firms have relied on IT departments to compile data analysis reports, now, this process is too time-consuming. Instead, firms need online reporting to be delivered on-the-fly. Consequently, analytics tools have become a crucial investment, with businesses spending significant sums on software that facilitates faster internal communication. As such, a high-end reporting system should ensure that every department is fully aligned, delivering up-to-the-minute information in real-time. Armed with this intelligence, departments can work towards making more collaborative, well-informed decisions.
However, with such a broad range of software available, it can be challenging to select technology that best meets an organization’s individual needs. After all, most business decisions – especially those that provide meaningful competitive advantages – require an understanding of the unique analytic needs of the business. Therefore, when considering which tool is appropriate, it is essential to keep the specific needs of the company at the forefront of the research. In this article, we introduce the main points to keep in mind when selecting an online reporting tool.
1. Look for the best user experience
Now, user experience is a priority for software developers. Whereas before analytics software may have been highly technical and opaque, now, developers understand it is critical that their products are legible and simplistic. Therefore, many analytics platforms feature convenient technologies and intuitive interfaces. For example, many platforms now include drag-and-drop tools and easy-to-understand visualizations. Subsequently, utilizing this software no longer requires a background in IT; therefore, a broad range of team members can access and leverage the intelligence these tools provide. If the organization’s goal to choose an online reporting solution that is widely accessible, avoid products that require special training. Repeated reporting mistakes can lead to counterproductive decision-making and costly mistakes.
2. Opt for a platform with maximum flexibility
Often, cloud-based or online analysis tools allow for a certain degree of flexibility. Therefore, companies can adapt reporting platforms to their specific needs. For instance, they can allow users from different departments to modify tools to generate reports for all areas of the business. These bespoke reports can look at different data sources, such as internal databases, cloud storage, apps, and various business applications including Google Analytics, WordPress, or Drupal. Flexibility is perhaps the key difference between online and traditional reporting tools – therefore, businesses should seek to invest in software that allows for a certain degree of adaptability. With these capabilities, firms can seek to leverage online reporting to its fullest advantage.
3. Choose software that generates reports in real-time
Today, the velocity of data demands that companies capture and analyze intelligence in real-time. Therefore, when weighing up the options for online reporting software, it is essential that businesses choose automated tools. The best reporting platforms will automatically display up-to-the-minute data, showing information from web-based reports as it happens. This enables firms to make decisions with greater agility, as there is no need to waste time uploading and downloading information. Furthermore, firms can pass on the advantages of greater agility to clients, who increasingly expect seamless, instantaneous interactions with brands.
4. Select an online reporting tool that facilitates remote access
An obvious advantage of online reporting and other cloud-based services is that employees can access them anywhere, any time, at high speed on any device. This capability is essential in a hyper-connected, globalized business landscape where employees are constantly on the move. Therefore, when selecting an online reporting tool, it is important to look for a platform with a multi-device interface that is accessible to everyone in the organization.
5. Make sure that software is fully secure
In today’s information-driven economy, knowledge is power – so company data must be diligently protected. Although remote access software is useful, occasionally, it can leave databases vulnerable to security breaches. Therefore, some companies may prefer to keep some highly sensitive information inside their intranet or private servers. That said, however an organization decides to protect sensitive data, they should ensure that their online reporting software is fully secure. For example, look for platforms that allow the company to manage access permissions and which data are available for download.
Investing in software vs. open source options
As a final take away, it is important to bear in mind that online reporting software can be costly. Often, firms will get what they pay for – but there are a few free open source options with excellent functionality. However, most open source software requires extensive technical knowledge; therefore, companies may find want the savings they make on software may need to be spent on training. That said, if an organization has a large and capable IT team at their disposal, it can be worth researching these options. Furthermore, an advantage of open source platforms is that they tend to be extremely flexible, as in-house engineers can augment the program in line with the company’s specific needs.
Accurate reporting – the difference between success and failure
In today’s business landscape, implementing reliable online reporting software is the difference between gaining a competitive edge or sliding into irrelevance. Reporting platforms allow companies to leverage valuable insights that enable them to meet customer requirements. Therefore, businesses should prioritize investment in online reporting tools. From here, they need to remember that there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to analytics; they must select a platform that best suits the demands of their operations and sector. However, by following the criteria listed above, organizations can ensure they select a tool that meets their company’s unique needs.