Designing your enterprise reporting strategy

on Tuesday, 01 January 2013. Posted in Blog, Business Intelligence

 

One key mistake, that often surfaces with the design of your report strategy is the mis-understanding of the classification of reports

Classification of Reports

Reports can broadly be classified as Operational reports, Tactical reports and Strategic reports. The category of reporting requirement drives the format in which the data needs to be stored to ensure adequate performance. Operational reports are typically run off relational databases while tactical (analysis/planning) and strategic reports are run off multi-dimensional databases.

 

1)      Operational Reports

Operational reports are essential for day-to-day operations of a business. These are typically either static or parameterized in terms data selection. This class of reports has minimal analytical requirements and typically excludes complex analytical calculations or planning processes. Relational (OLTP) databases are sufficient to meet these requirements.

 

2)      Tactical Reports

Tactical reports include planning and budgeting reports. Planning and budgeting report are more analytic in nature and may often require complex data analysis including past trends. Depending on the complexity of the reporting requirement, a combination of Relational (OLTP) and Multi-dimensional (OLAP) databases are required to support these needs.

 

3)      Strategic reports

Senior Management and executives have a business need to obtain the reporting figures at an overview level as opposed to an analyst in a department who needs reporting data at a finer level of detail. Reports of this type may also require operability with charts, tabular metrics and graphs. Strategic reports may involve complex analysis. Multidimensional (OLAP) databases need to be used to avoid performance degradation.

The above mentioned reports may further be classified as follows:

 

 ·       Standard Vs Ad-hoc reports

·         Summary Vs Detail reports

·         Key Figures Vs Master Data reports

·         Internal Vs External Reports 

Standard Vs Ad-hoc Reports

Standard reports are executed not once, but many times. Therefore, they should not have to be recreated each time. Instead, it should be possible to re-access templates and fill them automatically with the new data. However, if users would like a general view of certain facts for which there no pre-defined report, they need a tool that enables them to quickly compile this information themselves. It is important that they can quickly find the data they need. They need a tool that provides a business-operations view of the relevant data fields - characteristics, indicators and other attributes. This tool must be clear, and must help to find the fields needed by filtering and sorting.

Note: Standard report is a classification based on the reusability of the template or a report definition including layout and data fields. Standard report does not refer to the Oracle standard report.

 

Summary Vs Detail ReportsSummary reports have condensed data and the main focus is on data that can be aggregated. Usually the top-down method is used, that is, users start at a relatively high level of condensing and then display successively more details for important data (zoom in or drilldown). Experts also change (navigate) between different views (slice and dice).The other approach is the bottom-up approach. This is used mostly for reports that either contains hardly any data fields that can be aggregated, or for those in which the main focus from the start is on a detailed and complete overview of all selected data.

 

Key Figures Vs Master Data ReportsKey figures are numerical and can usually be condensed with simple formulas (but sometimes only with very complex formula). For example DSO (Day sales Outstanding) is a key figure and indicates the number of days past due and can be at product or a line of business level. A master data report is an all-inclusive report that has all the data pertaining to a range selection. 

Internal Vs External Reports

Based on the report destination, reports can be broadly classified as being internal or external. An internal report is circulated within an organization where as an external report is sent to an outside agency or a govt. body.

Much too heavy of an emphasis is based on Technology which can be complex, Technology in most cases is not the issue, it can be complex but always manageable.

To successfully deploy your Enterprise reporting strategy, it is important that you understand your organization plan to reach success, I recommend you use drivers (ex: automating processes - cost savings, educating users and managers - utilise the full potential of ERP, CRM). In general people drive enterprise reporting system to success not technology.

In spite of this advice, each time an organization starts an ERP (or CRM or SFA or BPM or whatever) selection and implementation project, the going-in assumption for reports  is that the software must handle the unique aspects of the business.

After having personally managed several large-scale system implementations (and consulted others on numerous projects), I developed a model to simplify business/IT reporting initiatives. The goal of this model is to improve the likelihood that we will make more rational decisions about where to accept "vanilla," or standard reports and where it makes sense which report you customize. For an ERP implementation, I have found that using this approach reduces reporting project timelines by as much as 50% and budgets by as much as 40%. Statistics show that only 30-40% of reports you design are ever used after go-live -develop wisely.