I’ve grown up reading Tom Clancy and probably most of you have at least seen Red October, so this book caught my eye when browsing used books for a recent trip. It’s a fairly human look at what’s involved in sailing on a Trident missile submarine…
Building a reporting system from the ground up is a daunting task. Such a big project usually involves intricate resource movement. Reporting is an important component of Business Intelligence (BI). Therefore, perceptive implementation options of the reporting portion should be considered. Data analysis and integration become pointless if they lack the proper delivery of meaningful presentation to those who need them.
Purposeful research and requirement analysis precede any action in the initial or implementation phase of the project. But more crucial than understanding the requirements is possessing a deep knowledge not only of the business processes but also of the company itself.
Laying the ground for the success of your reporting project reckons on few factors that are within your control:
Immerse yourself in the business
Knowing what your company does gives you a leverage in any reporting initiative. You must know your company from the inside out – the products or services, the customers, the target market, the competitors, the industry, the stakeholders, among others.
It is not enough to know all the processes or procedures in conducting the business of your company. The key here is to get yourself as close to the core of the business as possible. Make it personal. Feel your company’s heartbeat. Develop a genuine concern for the company.
Immersing yourself in the core of the business gets you to a level where you are comfortable in dealing with every situation that arises in the midst of the project. Plus, it will align all the values you uphold to that of the company. Why is this important? Seeing things with the same lens that the company is seeing through is an indispensable step in understanding the vision of the company.
Understand the desired metrics
What are you trying to measure? Knowing the vision of your company helps you to identify the key barometers and parameters. The Key Performance Indicators give a good glimpse of how far or near the company is to its goals or objectives.
The key is to identify the indicators that bespeak of what the company is trying to achieve. It is one thing to have the cutest dashboard, it is another thing to have a meaningful dashboard. We tend to get enamored of the latest and shinest dashboard tools. Just because you can build the most complicated dashboard doesn’t mean you should. Ask yourself this question before you build: Does this hold meaning to what my company wants to measure?
Get to know your report consumers
If you are in the same mindset as the late Steve Jobs, you have an inkling of how often your report consumers do not know what they want to see in their reports. I experienced this myself in the past. I received this specs and built the report based on them. The next morning I received a complaint from the person who requested for that report. I followed his specs to a tee.
That is the common mistake of report developers – accepting requirements or specs without taking into consideration the user’s perspective. Steve Jobs is often correct in this regard. Hence, knowing the business processes and understanding the company metrics is very important.
Understand what your users want. See what they have on those Excel sheets sitting on their laptops. Understand how data influence their day-to-day decisions.
Live and breathe data
As a data pro, you must live and breathe data. One part of the equation in any report project is the metadata – the intangibles or the business processes; the other part, which is equally important, is the data themselves. The data hold every meaning your company wants to draw from their business.
Understand collation, data types, indexes, performance, etc. Learn the structure of your data as they are stored in your databases. Understand how they are collected and to which application they are tied with.
Getting the upper hand on every business application deployed in your company is half the battle.
To sum up, there are few things to consider before you even deal with a reporting project head on. It is not enough that you understand the project specs. Knowing what’s behind every process and number play an important role in the success of your reporting project.