If your company has invested in Web-based reporting tools, you likely have access to real time reporting. However, are you using it to its fullest potential? Get more out of real time reporting by following these tips.
- Play – While you've probably gone through the software manual and may have even participated in training, getting your hands on Web-based reporting tools and playing around with various real time reports is one of the best ways to appreciate what it can do. The more comfortable you become with these tools, the more likely you will be to recognize when it makes sense to run a real time report. In addition, this play time will give you a chance to go through the steps involved with real time reporting as well as experiment with different report views and types. When the time comes to use Web-based reporting tools, you will know what to do. Why fumble with software when under pressure when you can take the time now to get to know it?
- Consider – Once you're comfortable with real time reporting and understand what your Web-based reporting tools are capable of, consider the types of reports you might want to run. Think about where that data is, how you might extract it, what key performance indicators would be the most useful for your job role, and how you would like to see that data displayed visually. For example, can you drag and drop data from various sources or will you need permission to access a protected database? Should you view your KPIs on a graph, a chart, or map?
- Create – Sketch out your ideal finished report on a piece of paper and then challenge yourself to create an ad hoc report. This is similar to the playing you did earlier, but with a purpose. This exercise will help you learn how to use your Web-based reporting tools to create a real report based on your specific criteria. Again, this should be done at your leisure without the pressure associated with a crisis so that should a crisis arise, you'll be ready and know exactly what to do.
- Evaluate – How did you do? What challenges did you encounter? What lessons did you learn? For example, if you found it nearly impossible to import external data, you may need to ask someone in IT for help. Likewise, if you found that some data lends itself to a specific report type, make a note of that for future use.
- Create a template – One of the advantages of real time reporting is that you can create ad hoc reports as needed without having to learn how to use report design software. However, you may find that you need to examine the same data sources and KPIs on a regular basis with the occasional tweak. Instead of starting from scratch each time, you could create a template and use that as the basis for future ad hoc reports.
- Put it into practice – As the saying goes, "Practice, practice, practice. Use your new skills frequently to ensure that you're well-versed in real time reporting. Not only will you be able to gain insights on a routine basis, you'll be better equipped to quickly pull information in a crisis.
Frank is the author of this article on getting more out of real time reporting. He wrote this article to inform his readers on how to get more information and data from real time reports using web based reporting tools.