The Power of Modern, Self-Service Ad Hoc Reporting

This article will discuss the benefits of today’s self-service ad-hoc reporting solutions for quick, powerful reports for all business end users.

In today’s business world, it feels like we’re always racing to keep up with our immediate tasks, long term projects, new business, innovation and creativity – and learning the systems that will facilitate all of the tasks that make up our job. Learning new technology has become part of most jobs in the corporate realm, but it is not an affordable objective to have a bunch of power users, especially with the cost of more privileged licenses for your team members. And that’s where a quality ad-hoc reporting solution comes into play. This article will explore the benefits of a modern ad-hoc reporting tool for self-service analytics that are affordable and actionable.

Let’s start by discussing the pain points associated with reporting on your financial and operational data. Some tools are proprietary or even just more sophisticated than is business user friendly. Some require that you hold a license that is more expensive than your use level will be, and some software is more specifically built for regular, highly formatted and automated reporting. Your team might be navigating around costs associated with licensing and/or training – and all you want is to get is a simple answer to a business question related to your specific job. Today’s premier ad-hoc reporting offerings can deliver the accessibility to company data and ease of use for all business end users that modern organizations can benefit from by distributing ownership of strategy. But how?

I don’t want to understate the importance of “self-service.” This buzzword should go beyond marketing and deliver in terms of allowing any business end user of the product to go in and securely run an ad-hoc report on company data. In other words, the solution should be easy enough to use that end users can do reports on the fly with just minimal training and without going to a power user or the IT team, which defeats half the purpose. Another good indicator of the value when it comes to self-service ad-hoc reporting has to do with cost. Licenses have to be offered at a low cost; otherwise, a company would not be able to afford to give all key users a license to serve themselves. Some companies would rather rely on a manual Excel process to provide team members with the analysis that informs their efforts and greater organizational decision-making.

Let’s zoom in on Excel for a minute. While Excel has been the go-to software for organizing company data, it is subpar for reporting if you’re an organization of any healthy size. Simply slapping Excel and all of your homegrown processes on top of your ERP database usually does not cut it because there is no meta data layer that translates the jungle of ERP database tables and fields to plain English terminology. Good ad-hoc reporting tools, like Solver’s BI360 Composer, has such a meta data layer and also has very good security to users only see the data they should see. This all said, let’s drill down a little bit to get to know what features and functionalities you should be seeking in an ad-hoc reporting tool.

There are plenty of functionality advantages to finding and implementing the right ad-hoc report writer. Look for drag-and-drop within a user friendly interface, so your team doesn’t have to learn report writer skills. In terms of enabling your team with ownership of reporting, you want to make sure that an enterprise resource planning (ERP) user license is not required as many of your users may not be accountants – and that it is a simple learning curve. You will want customized views to limit fields, with drilldown capabilities to the lowest level – and drill-to functionality if possible. As mentioned before, meta data will help make the experience clean and smooth, as well as smart and powerful.

In terms of producing quality reports with efficiency, you’re going to want some refined functionality. You will benefit from dynamic business rules, so you don’t have to make manual calculations, with expansion on rows and columns with totals. Matching labels with what’s in the ERP is handy in keeping everything consistent. The ability to aggregate data, as well as export to Excel, PDF, or print are logical features to any reporting tool. And as always, security is an important factor to consider.

When looking for the right ad-hoc reporting tool for your team, you’re going to want to prioritize security. Depending on the product, you can limit access with security by dimension, company, and module by user. This means that you can make sure that only the right data gets into the right hands when users are querying for reports. Security is essential with any technology that leverages company data, but it’s the sophistication you’re going to want to ensure is in place, so that configuration allows for individualized access. However, security is universally prioritized, so you shouldn’t have to worry too much about this aspect.

There’s plenty to consider when taking on a new software, but the benefits will likely outweigh the work of researching the right ad-hoc reporting tool for your team. Another thing to consider is that implementing an ad-hoc report writer can give you a better sense of that software vendor’s corporate performance management (CPM) solutions – how a full reporting solution or budgeting tool would perform in support of your analytical objectives. Solver’s own BI360 Composer, a modern ad-hoc reporting tool, is currently being offered for free to new customers. Solver enables world-class decisions with BI360, leading web-based CPM suite made up of budgeting, reporting, dashboards, and data warehousing, delivered through a web portal. Solver offers BI360 through cloud and on-premise deployment and is reinventing CPM with its next generation solution. BI360 empowers business users with modern features including innovative use of Excel in the model design process. If you’re interested in learning more, our team is excited to hear about your organizational needs and goals.

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