Manage and Customize Analytics Reports: A Guide for Analysts and Business Users

Big Data = Big Issue

The universe of data is reaching immense proportions. It’s estimated that it’s approaching 44 zettabytes (44 trillion gigabytes). 463 exabytes of new data are created daily, and this volume is doubling in size every two years.

Within this almost limitless mass of data is valuable information, but its value can only be properly realized if it’s organized and managed into reports that can be clearly understood, then analyzed and transformed into insights. That’s why data management and reporting are critical for successful analytics. Let’s look at some of the main challenges for organizations when faced with all this data, the solutions and the benefits of effective management and customization of analytics reports.

What stands between you and clear reporting?

Legacy databases and systems of data storage are often not very nimble, which detrimentally affects the production of reports. With these older systems, business reports are typically created on a case-by-case basis. Reports are static, meaning that data isn’t live, and they usually require the data team to prepare them within pre-set parameters. It simply isn’t possible for other employees to produce and analyze their reports according to their own specifications. Data preparation — cleaning, querying and building reports — traditionally takes the data specialists a long time, sometimes days or weeks, by which time the reports they produce may be outdated, and the process creates a bottleneck for others who must wait in line for their requested reports. This is inefficient, and it’s a situation that’s exacerbated by the vast volume of data that companies now handle.

The explosion of data has led to the rise of data warehouses, in particular, those that are cloud-native, such as Amazon Redshift, Google BigQuery, and Snowflake. Beyond these, organizations are now using both self-deployed (Hadoop clusters) and managed data lakes such as Amazon S3, Azure Blob Storage and Google Cloud Storage to store and handle their data.

That’s all well and good because these are excellent repositories for your data, but as capacity rises, the more data you have, and the messier it can get. It becomes harder to organize and manage it, and then to extract, transform and load it into digestible reports or visualizations. Data can be stored in different formats and compatibility issues may arise when seeking to export or transfer it from different sources. Organizations that commit themselves to one particular storage solution can find themselves in the unfortunate position of having their data locked in. Without the right solution, this can mean that some data is either hard to access or simply unobtainable, and it becomes difficult, or in some cases impossible, to mash it all up. As a result, you could lose out on gaining insights from vital data that you simply can’t identify or can’t transform into meaningful reports.

Furthermore, the large volume of data, the growing number of end-users creating more data, and their growing demand for more reports and insights, can put even more strain on your data teams when they undertake the ETL process. Under these circumstances, further delays and bottlenecks in the production of reports are inevitable and their accuracy can be called into question.

How do you tame this data and create great reports?

There are some key attributes that an analytics platform should have, to provide an effective solution to these challenges and enable you to create the best analytics reports.

Flexibility

Your analytics platform must fit into any environment – on-prem or cloud, private or vendor-managed, and must be compatible with whichever cloud provider(s) you use. Plus, it should be built to run on the latest technologies designed for modern cloud applications, like Linux, Docker containers and Kubernetes orchestration. Then you can be sure that whatever is the source of the data you want to organize — any cloud, any source, anywhere — you’ve got it covered. You can access it, extract, transform and load it into a centralized BI and analytics system, and from there develop easily understood business reports. And you can be confident that you’re collecting all the available relevant data.

Speed

Your analytics platform should enable you to handle data quickly and overcome the usually slow, complicated process of collating then updating reports. With the right technology, it’s possible to significantly streamline the data preparation and report generation processes by moving beyond time-consuming manual reporting into automated systems that connect directly to your databases and crunch the data. As a result, you can generate multiple reports on the same day, each in a fraction of the time it would previously have taken to produce one.

Agility

Don’t let your reporting get impeded by the limitations of traditional static reporting. Your analytics platform should provide you with the ability to access live data and incorporate new data on the fly without a DBA, IT team or specialized scripting. This will keep your reports as up to date, as relevant and as accurate as possible. It empowers users to ask new questions, explore answers quickly and act on these answers in the timeliest fashion.

Scalability and capacity

Hand-in-hand with the flexibility of working in any cloud environment is the capacity to manage large and rapidly growing volumes of data and rapidly proliferating sources of data. Wherever the data comes from and however much of it there is, you’ll be able to handle it and create the reports that you need from it. This means you can be confident that your capabilities are scalable; you can manage more data in your reports as your organization grows

Customization and self-service

Nowadays, customers want and need more from their data and their reporting. This demand is met in two primary ways: customization and self-service. It’s no longer sufficient for data and reports to be restricted to predetermined formats that must be built by your data teams. Firstly, it makes reporting slow and cumbersome. Secondly, it’s less likely to provide the precise information that users want, to help them differentiate their offering from the competition.

Consequently, the most advanced BI and analytics platforms must enable you to customize reports to your own specifications, in terms of what content you see, how it’s packaged, displayed, distributed, scheduled, and who has access to different parts of the available data.

An organization’s users are the best people to stipulate what they want from reports, and, given the capability, they’re the best people to ask your BI and analytics platform the questions that they really need to be answered. Enabling them to do this themselves not only takes away the burden of report building from your data teams, it leads to faster, better-informed reports and ad hoc analyses that will be truly valuable for your business. And if your platform can apply data exploration filters, it’ll be easier to customize reports with specific values, and provide users with only the most relevant data for their needs.

Alongside this is the element of self-service: enabling users throughout your business to create reports from which they can autonomously analyze and visualize data of any size, from any source, via a single data hub, irrespective of their technical know-how. Empowering users in this way can only be beneficial — leading to more effective campaigns, optimized operations, and the ability to solve business-critical challenges, fast.

The right platform, with this highly flexible approach, gives more users the versatility and freedom to explore data and drill down to find information that exposes the most relevant insights for their particular functions. The result: less confusion, more clarity, and escalated adoption of reporting as a key tool throughout your organization.

Governance, control, and security

What’s more, such flexibility extends to another important element that will enhance your reporting: governance and control.

With an agile, flexible platform, you can control access to data and to different levels of reporting. Permissions can be given based on user or group profiles and defined by database, dashboard or even what rows of data certain users can see. The benefits are twofold.

Firstly, this enhances the personalized, tailored element of reporting. Users will receive only the information they want, they need, and that is most appropriate and relevant for them. No longer will it be necessary to wade through rows of inapplicable data in standardized reports to find what they need. It’s a clearer, faster, and more efficient way for them to consume data, and they can be confident that what they see will have real value for them and their function within the organization. Alongside this, a truly versatile platform will allow you to schedule report distribution at different times for different audiences, so they will get reports when they are most receptive to them. And if reports still don’t meet users’ needs, it’s easy to unsubscribe with one click. As a result, users will soon see how relevant reports are. Then they’ll become more inclined to use reports more often. They’ll be more engaged with the BI and analytics process, and a larger number of users will extract more value from the process, thereby promoting and strengthening a culture of data-driven decision making within your organization.

Secondly, in an environment in which data security is a serious consideration, your platform’s flexibility is essential for enabling you to govern or disable access or subscriptions to certain reports, so that only authorized audiences receive them. This can also optimize workflows within your organization.

The Sisense difference: end user report management

At Sisense, we understand the huge challenges and opportunities that arise from the mountains of data that underpin your entire operation, your products, and services, and we’re committed to helping organizations extract the greatest benefits by creating the most advanced, flexible and user-friendly BI and analytics platform.

To that end, in the latest iteration of the Sisense platform, we have focused our attention on end-user report management, with the aim of delivering more control and precision to the way you can consume data and insights.

New enterprise management capabilities allow business analysts to efficiently manage report distribution and scheduling. Timing distribution or subscribing specific groups of end-users to certain reports is done simply and swiftly, in just one click.

Business analysts can also enable end-users to refine their own report subscriptions, which puts more power into the hands of business users who can personalize exactly how and when they consume insights.

As a viewer, the business user can quickly determine how the content is delivered – either as a PDF or a report embedded in an email. They can self-select the time and frequency that the report is delivered to suit them and to drive consumption and adoption.

Within each report, business users can also customize what data they will see, using the latest filtered values from dashboards, so only the data that they find most relevant is presented to them. Plus, business users can tailor the look and feel of the PDF attachment just like a business analyst does today.

Sisense automated reports democratize access to data and deliver valuable insights directly to end-users, giving them more autonomy over analytics consumption and enabling users to leverage the most contextually relevant insights that support their business processes.

Find out more about how you can optimize the management of your analytics reports and maximize their impact on your business, with the most advanced features and technology in the Sisense BI and analytics platform.

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