Do you or your team members spend hours manually extracting data, cutting and pasting from many sources, only to repeat ad infinitum? Consolidating data, calculating outputs and creating good looking visualisation can be a tedious process. Nobody likes doing the same things over and over.
Unfortunately, the following story is all too common when we start speaking to potential customers about their existing reporting function.
- John “the Reports Guy” comes in at 5am every morning to perform a completely manual refresh of the daily reports.
- He starts by manually extracting 17 datasets into spreadsheets.
- John adds columns with calculation logic and manually fixes known source data issues. He then formats the data based on a process he inherited but does not entirely understand.
- John repoints his visualisations to the new extracts (this could be Excel, or a tactical implementation of Power BI).
- He then emails the reports out to recipients for their 9am start.
Sound familiar? I am sure we’ve all seen a reporting process with many of the steps above as part of an organisation’s normal operations. Often this has built up over time and has become the de-facto approach.
One of the first things we do when we see an approach like this is to open it up to a challenge. As part of the discussion we can easily show the huge benefits to customers by explaining the aims of report automation.
- Reduced effort to generate – once you have automated the standard reports, it frees up time for analysts to make more sophisticated assessments of the data. You can now concentrate on innovation rather than repetition.
- Reduced errors and increased consistency – manually created reports are prone to human error. Often, we find that the logic in the process focuses on the needs of a single business unit rather than supporting a single version of the truth.
- Increased speed – You can reduce processes which used to take hours to a matter of minutes with report automation. This affords the opportunity to have a view of business performance on a more regular basis, often near real time.
After explaining the benefits that report automation brings, the discussion invariably turns to how to proceed. The Microsoft Azure Data Platform and Power BI in concert can fulfil the most complex of requirements, from a small tactical reporting implementation to a larger enterprise wide multi-data source project. Your standard automated report process could transform to something more like the following:
- Automated data extract pipelines to extract the data into a centralised reporting database
- Automated transformation to perform a consistent set of transformations each time based on a set of agreed definitions.
- Automated visualisation refreshes happening effortlessly
- Report notifications to key stakeholders automatically triggered when the data refreshes, ready for their 9am start
With Azure Data Platform and Power BI working for you, it’s time to consign the story about John “the Reports Guy” to history.