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Reporting and Dashboards: The Twin Workhorses of Enterprise BI

This post is guest authored by Peter Krensky, Research Analyst, Analytics & Business Intelligence at Aberdeen Group.

Every difficult task needs its beast of burden, and delivering analytical insight is no different. Reports and dashboards are sturdy, reliable methods for achieving the fundamental purpose of Business Intelligence (BI) at the enterprise level: delivering pertinent information to the right people at the right time. Newer, flashier technologies emerge and draw levels of attention disproportionate to their daily business impact, but reporting and dashboards still stand as the workhorses of analytics. In the hands of analytically enlightened organizations, these tools plow fields of data to sow the seeds of smarter decisions.

Aberdeen Group identified all respondents to the 2014 Business Analytics survey currently using reporting and dashboards into three maturity classes: the Best-in-Class (top 20% of performers), Industry Average (middle 50%) and Laggards (bottom 30%). The metrics used to distinguish performance are indicative of successful BI implementation and adoption. Ninety-nine percent (99%) of Best-in-Class users are satisfied with the relevance of their analytical capabilities to their job role. These top performers give decision makers the right tools to help them digest data and glean insight. The Best-in-Class also deliver BI access to 92% of all employees who have demonstrated a need or desire for analytical capabilities. Reports and dashboards should be easy to reproduce and distribute for all hungry analytical minds, regardless of the scale or complexity of the organization. Finally, the Best-in-Class averaged 23% revenue growth year-over-year. Essentially the Best-in-Class are growing organizations that leverage reports and dashboards to deliver relevant analytical capabilities to a large percentage of their workforce.

Aberdeen asked the Best-in-Class about their top strategies around analytics for the coming year (Figure 1). The top analytical strategy is improving collaboration by breaking down information silos (cited by 41%). Users benefit from information in reports and dashboards drawn from outside their immediate purview. BI tools unbridled by information silos give users across the organization the data they need to take decisive action. Collaboration and the free exchange of information of data give all users the pertinent information needed to press forward with decisions.

Figure 1: Best-in-Class Analytical Strategies

Thirty-two percent (32%) of the Best-in-Class listed enabling users to be more self-sufficient as a top strategy around BI. With training and self-service capabilities, Best-in-Class users can generate their own reports or modify existing ones to best suit their needs. Self-sufficient users can create custom dashboards that present only the most pertinent information in arrangements tailor-made for the user. Self-sufficiency initiatives also reduce the support burden that reporting and dashboards place on IT. Giving users even the simplest abilities – such as rearranging charts or changing color palettes – frees up IT resources for technically demanding tasks.

The third leading strategy of the Best-in-Class (cited by 32%) is delivering analytical capabilities to more operational business functions. The Best-in-Class want to get more tools and information in front of more decision makers to fully leverage all analytical minds. This analytical proliferation effort promotes data-driven making across all lines of business. Establishing more analytical tools in more places also creates a deeper pool of data to draw from to generate new reports and dashboards.

The key takeaway here is that not all reports and dashboards pull the same weight. Best-in-Class enterprises that widely distribute relevant analytical capabilities promote data collaboration and self-service initiatives to get the most out of their day-to-day BI activity. Business leaders looking to make their analytical workhorses work a little harder should keep the philosophy of the Best-in-Class in mind.

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