When it comes time to run reports, what is the process like? If your business is like many, the report generation process is one that is approached with a certain amount of dread. Worst of all, all the time that’s spent designing templates, entering data into a spreadsheet program, creating formulas, and manipulating the formatting generally means that you only have limited time to actually analyze the data. As a result, many reports are all but useless to your team ad your customers, and end up stuck in a filing cabinet somewhere.
Because reports are so important to your business, both internally (showing progress on KPIs, for instance) and to customers (how else do you show ROI or performance?) you need a reporting solution that makes the process easier, more accurate, and more useful. In fact, most businesses can benefit from a Windward reporting software program, for several reasons.
1. Excel Is Not Adequate
Excel is a phenomenally useful product, and has many exceptionally useful features. However, for reporting purposes, Excel has some serious limitations. For starters, it usually takes so much time to build spreadsheets and enter information that there is little to no time available for analysis. The majority of spreadsheets (as many as 80 percent) actually contain errors as well; consider that adding or updating data by adding fields, data sets, and formulas often means manually updating existing data and working across sheets to ensure that everything “matches up.”
Even when the data in spreadsheets is correct, rarely is it presented in a compelling or easily digestible format. Most Excel-generated reports are uninspiring to say the least, especially given the effort required to match the data to the template.
2. Free Solutions Have Limited Benefit
For a startup or microbusiness, free solutions have some merit. They can help you get your reporting efforts started without a major investment. Such solutions have some limitations, though, in terms of functionality, customization, support, and updates. You often end up spending more on free solutions in terms of time and human capital than you would by investing in a full-featured reporting solution to start with.
3. Poor Reporting Solutions Waste Time
Time is money in the business world, and when your employees are spending an inordinate amount of time developing workarounds for limited reporting options, designing templates, pulling information from siloed data sources, looking for support, and learning how to use reporting options, that translates into money coming out of your pocket. When you have easy-to-use reporting software, though, many of those time wasters disappear, and the time spent on reporting is focused and productive.
4. Customers Want Attractive, Easy-to-Read Reports
If no other reason spurs you to consider reporting software consider this: Your customers need and want reports that contain the information they are looking for in an attractive format that is easily understood. They do not want to wade through complex data sets or charts to find the information that they need. They want to see the data and its interpretation so they can make decisions quickly and with confidence. If your customers are complaining about your reports, the reports don’t contain actionable information, or if your sales team is reluctant — or even embarrassed — to use your reports, then you need to make a change to your reporting system.
5. Analysis Matters
Not only do you need time to perform data analysis, but also your reporting solution should make it easy for you to conduct that analysis. However, when using spreadsheets or software with limited capabilities, it’s often difficult, if not impossible, to effectively analyze data. When you want to “drill down” and uncover the reasons for data anomalies, or compare two sets of data that are maintained separately, can you do so easily?
It’s not enough to just collect and report data. In order for it to be truly useful, you must be able to interpret the data and use it to develop action plans. Therefore, you need reporting solutions that allow you to easily and efficiently analyze the data you’ve collected regardless of where it is stored, without having to spend hours developing new formulas or templates or working with IT to develop workarounds.
Investing in business reporting software will allow your company to boost productivity while also solving some of your employees’ greatest frustrations. Thanks to your ability to develop effective reports, it’s also likely that you can take advantage of more opportunities and better serve your customers — and even the smallest business can agree, that’s a good thing.