Tag: Report Manager

The Pros & Cons of Data Warehouses

Your BI solution’s data warehouse (DW) serves as one of the initial checkpoints for your important business data. Your DW is a repository where your data is stored electronically before the data is able to be reported and analyzed. As a whole, this portion of you BI solution is also in charge of loading, managing and extracting this data.

While this tool is certainly useful for many businesses, not every type of DW is relevant to your business makeup or industry, even. This is why, in this post, we’re going to break down the essential pros and cons of data warehousing, to ensure you make the right choice when choosing yours.

PROS of Data Warehousing

– Speedy Data Retrieving

How many times have you had a piece of information that you wanted to retrieve, but forgot where it was placed? Once you input your information into your DW,  you will never lose track of this data again. By conducting a quick search, you’ll be able to find the statistic and further analyze it — without having to waste time in your search.

– Error Identification & Correction

Many of us have the natural tendency to skip over dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s when inputting raw information, but data warehouses help eliminate user oversight. Before loading data, your data warehouse makes it a point to show you inconsistencies and correct them. This is extremely helpful for those who may be careless or hasty when it comes to gathering data.

– Easy Integration

Your DW also adds value to operational business applications like CRM systems when the warehouse is successfully integrated. The complexity of its makeup allows a data warehouse to translate the information in a more simple, digestible format to the point where your team members can easily understand what’s been placed in front of them.

CONS of Data Warehousing

– Time Consuming Preparation

While a major part of a data warehouse’s responsibility is to simplify your business data, most of the work that will have to be done on your part is inputting the raw data. Now, while the job the DW does for you is helpful and extremely convenient, this is the most work you’ll have to manually perform, as the DW performs many other functions for you.

– Difficulty in Compatibility

Depending on the system you currently have in place, the use of data warehouse technology could likely require a helping hand from an independent BI team. With the intricacies of operating systems, software and programs, it can be difficult for a business owner to figure out how to properly make use of their data warehouse. Especially since the costs of these tools are investments in your business, you’ll want to ensure that your system is working exactly the way you intend it to.

– Maintenance Costs

One of the pros and cons of your DW is its ability to consistently update. This is great for the business owner who wants the best and latest features, however these upgrades don’t usually come cheap.

Including regular maintenance for your system, you can expect to shell out more than your initial investment should you want to have the latest technology at your fingertips.

– Limited Use Due to Confidential Information

If you have sensitive data that should only be viewable from a certain staff members,  your DW’s use will be limited. In order to maintain the security of your current system, less usage could eventually decrease the overall value of your data warehouse.

No matter your needs or concerns, our specialists at Business Impact look forward to helping you make the right decision when it comes to selecting the right BI solution for your company. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help your organization get the most out of its business intelligence solution.


Filter Reports in Report Manager using Keywords

Microsoft’s Report Manager has already proven its capabilities as a powerful frontend portal, for easy distribution of reports to the business. The folder based interface in a browser makes navigation intuitive and comfortable for most users (even the “technical challenged”!) and allows for great flexibility on security settings down to the individual report, folder or user/user-group. The main challenge for the business, is to decide on how to best group the reports into folders that makes sense. We often see reports grouped in Report Manager based on logical departments like: “Finance”, “Production”, “Customer Service” or more focused on activities like: “General Ledger”, “Quality Assurance”, “Audit”, “Sales” or even a mix of the two. The obvious goal is what makes the most sense to the end user!

Regardless of the naming conventions of reports and how they are categorized, most companies experience increasing difficulty in maintaining the ease of navigation as the portfolio of reports grows alongside new needs and more users pulling reports in the daily operation. We have several clients that has more than 30 reports in their Report Manager environment and add new reports on a monthly basis. It’s not difficult to imagine two different departments essentially building the same reports but with different analytical perspectives, hence introducing a degree of redundancy hidden by differentiation of titles. Sadly we also see companies simply loosing track of what some reports are used for, as changes in business or employee turnover renders them simply unnecessary or worse, unexploited. Additionally, we also often find a special category of important reports that is not intended for the daily operation, but to help mitigate crisis when they occur (e.g. external audits, tracking lost shipments, documentation for licensing purposes etc.) that gets forgotten over time.

So how do we avoid all this?

First, it still needs to be emphasized that nothing beats thoughtful titles on reports and placing them in folders that makes sense to the end-users. Additionally, Report Manager offers the opportunity to attach a small description to the reports, visible in the interface. This is a great way to offer the potential reader an understanding of what the report has to offer besides what the title suggests. Report Manager has two views, illustrated in the two pictures, Tiles View and Detailed View.

[frame src=”http://businessimpactinc.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/4.png” width=”640″ height=”155″ lightbox=”on” title=”Report Manager Tiles View” align=”left” ]

Notice that Tiles View offers the first few words of the description and rest will appear as a tooltip when hovering the mouse on the title.

[frame src=”http://businessimpactinc.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/1.png” width=”640″ height=”140″ lightbox=”on” title=”Report Manager Detailed View” align=”left” ]

Another powerful function in Report Manager is the search engine usually placed in the upper right corner and this will bring us the magic. The engine pulls not only all reports that contains the search term in the title, but also matching terms in the description. The growing use of hashtags (i.e. “#”) in Social Media applications like Twitter and Instagram has successfully taught users how to attach topic related tags onto entries. Thus, creating simple filters that seamlessly compiles shared content across users on a given topic. Same approach can be used with the description on a report.

[frame src=”http://businessimpactinc.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/2.png” width=”283″ height=”118″ lightbox=”on” title=”Report Manager Search Engine” align=”right” ]

Imagine a scenario with a financial controller, faced with an extensive audit, and uses various reports across all departments/categories in Report Manager, to compile the necessary documentation. Having to figure out what report returns the right information for each department can be a daunting task. If the controller adds e.g. the keyword (tag) “#audit” to the report description, for each relevant report, the search engine will easily return ALL the necessary reports for a future audits.

[frame src=”http://businessimpactinc.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/3.png” width=”640″ height=”219″ lightbox=”on” title=”Report Manager Audit Search Example” align=”left” ]

In conclusion, by adding keywords/tags to descriptions, an organization can easily filter relevant reports across different folders and save significant time on browsing in Report Manager. This method are especially valuable to the report users that has cross departmental responsibilities, like e.g. finance and upper management.

Three reasons why you shouldn’t even hesitate to do this?

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  • Easy to implement – It does not take much technical skills to add, modify and delete descriptions.
  • Cheap – It does not add any overhead to report processing, and the only noticeable cost is the time used to add the tags.
  • Hashtags and keywords are concepts used in many popular applications like e.g. Twitter and it may not be difficult to train the user group to also utilize the search engine when browsing for reports.