WHY IT DEMANDS 20-40% OF YOUR BUDGET

 

The amount of data organisations handle each year grows exponentially as their business expands; as does the number of users who require access to this data in the form of reports. The complexity of reports is also increasing as management at all levels demand access to up-to-the minute information on which to base business-critical decisions.

It is no wonder then that reporting is increasingly demanding more time and resources; and as a result contributing additional costs to a business.

This whitepaper examines the best approach to planning for effective reporting for a custom developed system.

Understanding the importance of reporting

The true value of a system, whether off-the-shelf or custom-built, is delivered through two main outcomes. Firstly, the system needs to provide the essential functionality to enable end users to easily and effectively perform their duties. The second, and often more important function, is to provide access to meaningful reports that will empower management to
make better informed business decisions.

Therefore in theory, when building a custom system, organisations need to consider both the functionality and reporting as equally important. 20-40% of the budget should be allocated to reporting alone.

In practice however, although mentioned at the commencement of a project, reporting is often left until the system is built. This in effect creates increased difficulty in ensuring the information required to provide meaningful reports is captured during the development of the system.

So why do organisations often leave reporting as an afterthought? Some claim that it is difficult to know what sort of reports they will require until they see the live data. Others claim that their needs may change after the system is built.

Although some flexibility is required, with the correct approach, organisations can define the type of reporting they require at the beginning of the project.

Answering the business-critical questions

The best approach in planning the type of reports an organisation requires is by identifying what sort of metrics they want to measure or what business questions they need answered through the reports.

Each organisation or department within an organisation will have their own metrics or business critical questions:

  • A service organisation may want to know how many billable resources are idle
  • A customer service organisation may want to know customer satisfaction levels
  • A finance department may want to know the profitability of individual initiatives
  • A marketing department may want to know the breakdown of lead source

Once these business critical questions are identified, an organisation then needs to specify the type of data that is required to answer these questions. Using the examples above:

  • A service organisation needs to know which resources are available and what job they have been allocated to
  • A customer service organisation needs to define how they will measure customer satisfaction levels
  • A finance department needs to know what expenses are allocated to which initiative and what revenue has been created by each initiative
  • A marketing department will need to track the source of leads

Once the type of data has been identified, the system can be produced ensuring the essential information is captured.

Ensuring the correct data structure

Even by identifying the business-critical questions and defining the metrics at the start of the project, reporting needs may change as the organisation evolves.

It is imperative that the system is built with a data model that allows for flexible reporting. By ensuring that the correct reporting foundation is in place, organisations will be able to meet their requirements as their reporting needs grow and change.

It is therefore critical that an organisation does their due diligence when choosing a software development provider. They need to ensure that the software development provider not only has a good track record in developing software applications, but that they have an understanding of reporting foundations that will support additional reports into the future.

Intelligent reporting

In an increasingly competitive marketplace, organisations need to ensure they stay ahead of their competition.  Meaningful, timely, intelligent reports can provide an organisation the information needed to make business-critical decisions.

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