Top 10 Questions To Ask Before Choosing A Reporting Software Solution
Posted on: May 18, 2020
Businesses everywhere are recognizing there’s only one way to ensure leaders can make the best decisions for their organization: visibility into all of their data. Analytics has become the cornerstone of driving innovation, maximizing profits, and recovering during economic downturns.
Our digital world has proven that no company can lead – or even survive – without a business intelligence reporting solution. However, not all reporting tools are equal.
Before signing on the dotted line, be sure to ask these questions of any reporting software solution:
Data Sources – Can you pull in all of your data from all of your data sources?
It’s important that whatever tool you consider allows you to bring in all of your disparate data sources. Whether that be from multiple ERP systems, spreadsheets, or other data points. It’s important you can access all of your data with a direct connection and create real-time reports from all of that data. A good tool won’t be labor-intensive and require you to define and/or map fields.
Data Security – Can you be confident that your data is secure?
This should always be an important consideration for any business. You will want to make sure that any tool you employ doesn’t put any of your data at risk. You need to be able to control who has access to which accounts, reports, and/or drill-downs. For example, you won’t want all of your employees to be able to access payroll data. A strong reporting tool will make safeguarding your data a top priority.
Installation & Setup Timeline – How long until you have reports in hand?
It’s important you understand the amount of time it will take for each of the following:
- Software installation & setup
- Custom reports in-hand
You should receive a timeline outlining expectations for the completion and delivery of each of these.
Ease Of Use – How easy is it to navigate the platform?
It’s important the interface is simple to operate. It’s best when users can drag and drop to build their custom reports. Most tools will claim they are easy to use. Make them prove it.
Drill Downs – Can you click on a balance and drill all the way into the details?
Make sure a tool provides visibility into all of your data. You need to be able to drill down on any number, all the way to the transactional level, to find the story behind each of your numbers.
Collaboration – Can you easily collaborate & share information within your reports?
Oftentimes, a number needs further explanation or supporting documentation to answer the who, what, when, where and/or why questions. A robust reporting tool will allow you to connect your team and your data by enabling support documents to be uploaded into report balances, include important notes, schedule reply due dates to number questions, and then store all of those conversation threads. It’s important to make sure your reporting tool has the power to centralize communication and keep your team on the same page, with complete knowledge of where you’ve been and where you need to go.
Dashboards & Graphs – Can you get a clear visualization of your KPIs with graphs & dashboards?
A solid tool will allow you to create picture perfect snapshots into your data. This ability to obtain faster metrics & get visibility into your company’s financials is a necessity. It’s imperative you’re able to easily create graphs and dashboards to see and measure your Key Performance Indicators.
Budgets – Can the tool simplify your budgeting process & help you best plan for the future?
You need a tool which provides templates so that you can easily create a master budget in minutes. You also need the flexibility to be able to compare actuals to your baseline budget, as well as generate unlimited “what-if” scenarios.
Consolidations – Can you easily create consolidated reports?
A reporting tool needs to be able to grow with you. So even if you don’t have multiple companies right now, you need a tool that can handle reporting from and within multiple entities. Make sure the platform allows you to create your own (virtual) consolidated chart of accounts and be able to handle eliminations, multiple currencies, and conversions.
Mobility – Can you access your reports from a mobile device?
Whether you’re in the office or on the road, you need to be able to access the same data from your computer or mobile.
You will then want to make sure your team understands the importance of putting the time in upfront to implement the new tool. Everyone should understand that the right tool will make each of their jobs easier and give them more time to tackle other responsibilities. Finally, designate a person responsible for making the transition successful and don’t forget to paint a picture of what “done” looks like.
Make sure you request to speak to customers who have used the platform and ask them questions about their experience with the vendor, especially with their Support department. You will inevitably need Support and you want to be certain that the vendor makes customer service a top priority.
The right analytics solution will put you on the path to better business decisions, new opportunities, and more time to focus on driving innovation and serving your customers. Powering your business with a platform that provides robust business intelligence is going to enable your team to take back control of your data and stop wasting time trying to find it.
We hope this guide helps you make the best decision for your organization.
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Jeana has been in the software industry for 15+ years specializing in ERP reporting solutions. She has decades of experience in creative content development and marketing and enjoys exercising, traveling & spending time with her husband & twin boys.