Are You Using The Right Tool? 2 Steps To Get Your Reporting Strategy On Track

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October 28, 2021
  • One Ring forged in the fires of Mordor had the ability to “rule them all!”
  • A single pair of denim jeans perfectly fit four best friends of differing body shapes and sizes, keeping their friendship alive over a summer apart.
  • An adjustable hat, using a snap closure, makes its debut in the mid 1950’s so heads of all sizes could enjoy baseball’s latest fashion.

For those of you who recognized the Lord of the Rings, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, and the Snapback cap, kudos to knowing your pop-culture references!

If you’re anything like me, your head might not quite fit into a “one-size-fits-all” baseball cap (thanks genetics!). Fortunately, there are other ways of getting your hands on this staple fashion piece – try a ‘fitted cap’ at Lids or make your way to your local hatter for a custom, guaranteed fit. The point is, while the idea of a universal, one-size-fits-all approach is meant to work for everyone, frankly, it’s never the best solution for just anyone.

The same statement has been made for strategies approaching our education system, medical care, and marketing industry. Well, the same can be said of reporting - there is no one app that “rules them all” when it comes to visualizing data in IBM’s TRIRIGA or other IWMS, EAM, CRM software, etc.

Why is this?

The overall reporting needs differs throughout your userbase.

Reporting is like a toolbox! You’re going to need a few tools and gadgets to craft the reports and charts your business needs to get the job done.

Step 1: Understand Your Reporting Needs

5 Questions to Ask Yourself

You would never use a screwdriver to hammer in a nail and you wouldn’t get behind an excavator without proper training and experience first (one hopes!). So firstly, before you dive into your “reporting” toolbox and grab a tool, take a moment to contemplate the following:

(1) Who are these visualizations for?

  • End Users?
  • Middle Management?
  • Senior Management?

(2) What data sources are available?

  1. Are you pulling data directly from one system?
  2. Are you trying to integrate data from two or more different systems?
  3. Does the data live in a separate server?

(3) How complex are the visualizations that need to be created?

  • Simple charts (i.e., bar charts and pie graphs)?
  • Reports with filtering, sorting, and aggregating capability?
  • Dashboards and key performance indicators (KPIs)?
  • Challenging mathematical calculations?

(4) How will the charts or reports be delivered and interacted with?

  • Static charts on a PowerPoint Presentation?
  • Emailed to the appropriate colleagues as need be?
  • Interactive charts accessed real-time through the operating system?

(5) Who should create and maintain the visualizations?

  • End users?
  • Power Users?
  • System Administrators?

3 Key Reporting Needs

Running through a similar exercise with TRIRIGA helped us define the Complete Reporting Strategy. There are 3 key reporting needs to be fulfilled in a typical business:

(1) Ad-Hoc Reporting

  • Users of the system need operational reports and charts to make day-to-day decisions at work
  • Visualizations should be interactive and dynamic, easily created or modified by users on the fly
  • Reporting tools need to be simple, user-friendly, and require minimal training or expertise
  • Data is typically coming from one source of truth – the transactional system itself

(2) Advanced, Unique Reporting

  • Users of the System or different tiers of Management need more unique, specialized visualizations to complete their work (e.g., geographical maps of all business locations with interactive drill downs or KPIs of monthly sales growth)
  • Visualizations should be interactive and dynamic, but may not be used or modified as frequently as ad-hoc reporting
  • Reporting tools are more technical in nature and typically need someone with a particular skill level or programming experience to use
  • Data can come from one or more sources of truth

(3) Portfolio-Wide Reporting

  • Upper Management and Executives need summary, overview-level reports and charts to make strategic business decisions
  • Visualizations are more static in nature, ran least frequently (quarterly, bi-annually, or annually) and need little modification
  • Reporting tools are complex and require technical skill and training to use
  • Data can come from one or more sources of truth and is utilizing the entire portfolio of data (That could be a lot of data!)

The proportion of these reporting needs are not equal across the business. As our Product Manager will tell you, “90% of our reporting problems come from 10% of our reporting needs.” Can you guess which - Ad Hoc, Unique, or Portfolio-wide Reporting - takes up the greatest proportion? Download our Complete Reporting Strategy Guide to find out for yourself!

Depending on the system you are using or how your business operates, you may find these needs to be very similar or perhaps a tad different.

Step 2: Pick the Reporting Tool(s) You Actually Need

There are a lot of tools out there – and remember it’s not a one-tool-fits all! It can feel overwhelming, but since you’ve determined what you need, you can better equip yourself with the right tool to tackle the job.

For businesses that use TRIRIGA, download our Complete Reporting Strategy Guide to see a list of industry standard tools for the 3 key reporting needs.

If your business is operating on a tight budget or a system-agnostic tool, take a look at what’s currently available to you. For example, companies with an Office 365 subscription will likely have access to Microsoft Excel and free licenses to Power BI.

Where you might experience “reporting pains” is using the wrong tool for the wrong job. For example, trying to use Power BI for a simple bar chart that shows how many different types of work tasks a team has for the day. This is something that an ad hoc reporting tool should take care of, not a heavy-duty business intelligence tool.

Remember, always refer back to your reporting needs. That way, if you’re in the market for a new tool or trying to decide which of your existing tools to use, you know which key features and functionality to look out for as you make your selection.

Now go grab your baseball hat - snapback, fitted, or custom - and hit your reporting strategy out of the park!

Not sure if you can do this on your own? We’re here to help! Reach out or schedule a free consultation with one of our reporting specialists.

Fill out the form below to receive your FREE copy of the Complete Reporting Strategy Guide:


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