What is Scalable Reporting?
Scalable reporting is when a reporting software or tool can scale up or sideways, growing and changing with an organization. A fully functional reporting tool should have the ability to adapt over time to changes. The changes usually involve business growth, so the idea is that the adaptation will be an expansion or upgrade of the existing capabilities that the reporting system can offer at any given point in time.
With regards to a business or organization, scalability is very multifaceted. For instance, it can apply to a company’s documentation, training aids, distribution channels, and specialized tools. Usually, the scalability of one aspect will tie into the scalability of another, so business owners must understand the correlation between different resources and have a much bigger picture of what’s happening inside the system or an organization.
When Does a Business Need a Scalable Reporting Solution?
As a company grows and expands, its primary objective is to grow to meet market demands. However, market trends are never static. They shift as people’s tastes and interests change and resources flow in and out of availability. If business owners want to stay competitive in these circumstances, they have to be able to scale the resources and change what they are doing to meet the customers’ requirements. The business must be flexible and agile enough to pivot when required.
Scalability matters because growth in business means business owners are working with more customers, data, and resources. If they fail to handle this growth, they can lose efficiency or product or service quality. If not addressed, this results in a loss of sales and business failure.
Here are some of the critical scenarios in a business that indicate the need for a scalable reporting tool:
- When the organization generates vast amounts of structured and unstructured data
- When the organization finds it challenging to find important information
- When it is challenging to collect summarized data required for reporting
The Benefits of Adopting Scalable Reporting Solutions
If a company is proliferating, it needs a scalable reporting solution, and Microsoft Excel, with its manual formulas and human-error-prone nature, isn’t going to suffice.
Having the right scalable reporting tools for business needs can save business owners time and money. While a spreadsheet is scalable to a certain extent, it needs a lot of time and resources to rebuild and rebuild each time there is a core change. If a business is experiencing rapid growth, it probably doesn’t have the resources to dedicate to that task. If an organization does choose to rely on Excel, it isn’t easy to trust the accuracy of that data. Excel requires manual intervention, and every time a human changes or touches a cell, there is an opportunity for error. Typically, multiple team members share reports via shared folders in local networks, which can cause version control issues.
Benefits of a Scalable Reporting Tool
Traditional Excel-based reporting or a non-scalable reporting tool is inferior to scalable reporting in many ways. Adopting an agile reporting tool benefits an organization in a range of courses.
Forecast More Accurately
Forecasting and running scenario analyses help businesses build a strong foundation upon which business owners can make more accurate, data-driven business decisions. A scalable reporting solution will allow an organization to plan, adjust, adapt, and forecast scenarios at the touch of a button. Artificial intelligence (AI) can be incorporated into the reporting, allowing more insight and better predictions.
Trust the Data
A scalable reporting model means there are no worries about data validation. Manual spreadsheets cannot scale with business growth effectively, and manual errors mount. In addition, consolidating the data manually and deciphering it is time-consuming. A scalable reporting tool can do the heavy lifting for business owners. No manual data transformations or data entry means far less opportunity for error.
Taking the Organization Public
Accuracy is a crucial factor when a company is going public. Forecasts have to be prepared frequently. Investors and stakeholders expect precise estimation of the company’s value and growth. Also, some key processes must be modified to serve the company’s changing business needs. A flexible and scalable reporting solution will help businesses achieve these action items.
Though traditional spreadsheets are helpful, they are ideal for entry-level businesses. As the company grows, it needs more advanced functionalities for reporting.
Spreadsheets or Excels are limited when viewing or loading large data files. COVID numbers were not reported accurately in the UK when an Excel spreadsheet reached its capacity. In contrast, advanced and scalable reporting tools allow imposing data compression and other functions such as visualization and analysis. With the help of these tools, business owners can work and view their data directly in the business intelligence system.
Also, with advanced solutions, users can easily integrate and concatenate several datasets, even those originating from different departments such as marketing, finance, and sales. Historically, this could only be achieved manually with time-intensive tools. This slowed down processes and left the dataset open to human error.
Old-fashioned reporting tools can create, copy, and paste data tables. However, they do not allow connections with other devices. To achieve this connectivity, traditional reporting tools need third-party plugins.
Modern, scalable reporting tools are built for merging data into a reportable model, with connector functions dedicated to different data handlers. Dynamic dashboards then present instant analyses and visualizations that can be refreshed in real-time.
Scalable business intelligence reporting tools automatically consolidate data from numerous sources. Also, these tools can collect and refresh data automatically and run reports on a schedule as requested by the user. Business users can invest their time in more practical activities than running reports using business intelligence reporting tools.
Building charts is comparatively simple and easy with spreadsheets and other similar tools. However, complex visualizations are challenging in traditional spreadsheets. This is because spreadsheets don’t have any automatic operations except for calculations and pivot tables. In addition, the preparation and preprocessing of data require changing cell formats, merging and pasting data, and creating formulas.
On the other hand, complex visualizations involving maps, timeframes, and complex data display tools are often in the standard toolkit of much scalable business intelligence software. Some devices even allow building or purchasing custom visualizations to meet specific needs.
Developing user-defined color schemes and branding is also painless and straightforward in business intelligence reporting tools. This helps marketing teams handle branding and similar tasks themselves without depending on analysts. As a result, charts and graphs can be generated in line with the company’s branding guidelines with one consistent color scheme.
It is sometimes difficult to use Excel and other traditional software on mobile devices. Tracking key performance indicators in mobile business intelligence dashboards is a far more effective solution for visualizing and viewing scalable reports. In addition, mobile versions of business intelligence reporting tools often have the most desktop capabilities around statistical interpretation and analysis. Some advanced business intelligence solutions have complete mobile applications that enable access to downloadable dashboards for offline work.
Collaboration, Distribution, and Publishing
It is frustrating and problematic to work on shared spreadsheets. This is because it requires manual effort to share and upload all files to a virtual drive. Caution must be used when making changes to the files to avoid version conflicts.
Business intelligence scalable reporting tools allow users to publish reports that their collaborators can access. Collaborators can comment on visualizations and key performance indicators based on the context of each view. In addition, each report functionality is adaptable and can be presented and updated in real-time in each collaborator’s workspace. Hence, business intelligence reporting models can be adjusted on the go and do not need to be reset or built again.
In any business, spreadsheets become a bottleneck as the necessity for collecting and analyzing the enormous amount of data increases. Depending on the number of columns it has, the functioning of Excel or online spreadsheet tools slow down drastically as the volume of data entered increases.
Business intelligence solutions are built to handle millions of rows of data and utilize memory-load optimization engines. Moreover, scalable reporting tools are built for storing and calculating data on desktops and in a cloud environment. These reporting tools are scalable and allow for resource savings. Also, reliability, ease of access, and constant performance improvement are some of the top priorities of scalable reporting tool developers. What might be a problem today will be resolved tomorrow with the latest release.
Security and Monitoring
Traditional Excel-based reporting solutions rely on network file access rights, individual computers’ security settings, and operating systems because they do not have their security gateways.
Spreadsheets follow inconvenient password-based security. So, if the password is poorly set, anybody can access the file and copy and paste, delete, or modify rows and columns. This can result in compromised data security and confidentiality, not in line with good governance and compliance practices.
Scalable reporting solutions have several security layers for monitoring and controlling users’ activities and access rights. With such solutions, it is simple and easy to implement security protocols. Access rights can also be established rapidly and flexibly at different levels, including analysis, reporting, and dashboard. The actual owner of a dataset or dashboard can provide relevant users access to certain information based on their level of responsibilities or expertise.
Ease of Use
Excel, spreadsheet, and manual reporting tools often require detailed knowledge of the software. Even minor changes by clicking and dragging a cell accidentally can cause significant problems for data accuracy.
Scalable reporting tools are built so that even unskilled users can produce the reports they require.
Challenges When Building Scalable Business Intelligence Reporting Tools
Developing or creating a scalable business intelligence reporting solution often involves a tremendous investment for implementation and support from the IT team. This is because the system may likely require customization to adapt to the business-specific requirements.
Another challenge to implementing a business intelligence solution across all organizational units is the high learning curve of utilizing it, alongside push-back from employees accustomed to manual tools. Having buy-in from staff and providing just-in-time training is essential for scalable reporting tools to be adopted.
How to Choose Scalable Reporting Tools
First and foremost, an organization should look at the tools available on the market. Since customized tools cost more, businesses should research the ready-made tools first and evaluate if they meet their business needs.
Businesses can find many free components and libraries that offer data visualization and analysis capabilities. However, a free reporting tool often comes with pitfalls, limited volumes, processes, or further customizations required to meet the project’s specifications and needs. This means businesses would need to invest in the further development of functionality, defeating the point of free software.
Though traditional spreadsheet solutions are theoretically accessible, they have massive limitations regarding modern business needs.
Another option for business users is to focus on paid products that offer many out-of-the-box features. Software-as-a-Service (Saas) scalable reporting options provide flexibility to grow and change with the business. Organizations can pay only for the reporting functions they use. They can add users or remove them as needed and only pay for what’s required.
Business intelligence and scalable reporting solutions save resources, time, and money. Modern data-driven businesses need advanced solutions to prevent burdening their IT teams while still enabling the seamless collection, processing, and data analysis. Scalable reporting tools automate various business processes, making merging data from different sources simple and easy.
Neglecting or not considering the value of business analytics can lose a competitive advantage. Using heuristics or educated guesses can never match or replace data-driven decisions. Implementing a business intelligence solution is essential because enabling scalable business intelligence solutions can become a turning point in any company’s growth.
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