Back To Basics: The Business Requirement For Reporting

March 17, 2011
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Corporate business intelligence is my bread and butter and I have just spent some time writing down some basic explanations for business managers that I want to share with you.

For many line managers, talk of analytics can often feel to them like a ‘nice to have’. The following tries to explain the types of reporting they need and to do this within a very basic framework. The intention is to identify certain characteristics of their reporting (i.e. reporting) needs.

Corporate business intelligence is my bread and butter and I have just spent some time writing down some basic explanations for business managers that I want to share with you.

For many line managers, talk of analytics can often feel to them like a ‘nice to have’. The following tries to explain the types of reporting they need and to do this within a very basic framework. The intention is to identify certain characteristics of their reporting (i.e. reporting) needs.

  • Operational – At the lowest level, business operations use data that is: 
    • Very low grain (e.g. account level), little to no summaries or aggregates, not analysed
    • Narrow scope (i.e. a single function of the report, limited information)
    • Limited usage – perhaps a single user in the organisation that reviews each day/hour
    • Very source specific (i.e. no requirement for across source view) but often larger organisations need to merge data from multiple (but still specific) sources
    • No interactivity – just a simple plan text list of numbers and attributes
    • Capability to produce directly from source system with minimal impact on performance
    • Business Unit functional reporting to answer ‘what’s happening today’ questions
    • Business critical – less than 1 day and increasingly needed in real-time.
  • Management – information that is:
    • Used to assist management decision making over periods longer than a single day
    • Used for targeting, forecasting, trending or historical analysis (standard reporting, interactive, slice-and-dice analysis)
    • Hierarchical and summarised
    • Enterprise wide – multiple sources/dimensions view of data or widespread use across business units
    • Difficult to produce directly from a source (disparate data, no-history, high impact on performance)
    • Business Unit ad hoc reporting requirements to answer ‘what if’ questions
    • Regulatory reporting
    • Business critical if there is a 1-2 days outage.
  • Strategic – supporting the ‘big’ questions:
    • Highly analytic using large data sets but presenting the analysis in a summarised form
    • Wide scope (i.e. new products and services, business lines)
    • Limited interactivity – but usually visualised
    • Business enterprise insight to answer big ‘what happens when …’ questions
    • Business critical in the medium to long term.

Once a line manager ‘gets’ this stuff, we can then use the framework to better identify and organise their own business information requirements.

It’s basic, but you have to get the basics right if you are going to be successful in the more advanced stuff.