O Data. Where Art Thou?

Standard static reports are available with most applications, and those reports increase over the years, as newer business demands arise. I've seen people digging through 70 static reports, trying effortlessly to find the one that matches their current need.. Yes, 70.

But what do I mean by static reports? Those are specific well-defined reports, that will rarely change. Here are some examples: 

  • List of products.
  • Employees going on leave next month, sorted by department.
  • Sales this quarter, compared to sales the same quarter, last year.
  • Customers in the city of Riyadh, who are overdue in billing, ... etc.

Those are fixed reports, pulling specific data from the operational database, for a specific purpose. What if I need to know more? Do I have to send a request to the IT Department? How much time will they take to develop it? How can I confirm its accuracy?

Do you really want to add more to those 70 static reports? No, you want a different view of your data. A more dynamic and intelligent way of reporting. Something like:

  • List of (the top 5) products, (categorized by city).
  • Employees going on leave next month, (with an HR retention rate less than 50%, AND, without a succession plan).
  • Sales this quarter, (with a historical view of sales in the same quarter, the last 15 years).
  • Customers in the city of Riyadh, who are overdue in billing, (and qualify for our financing plan, sorted by interest rates, of our top 5 banks).
  • Which branch has the most delays, in shipping the top 5 products, to the city of Jeddah, AND when?
  • What is the most requested products, by customers in Dammam, between the ages 20-25?

Ahaa.. So, there is a different way of looking at data?

Of course there is, as long as you have it stored correctly in known data repositories. This means, you know their year, application, structure, accuracy, format, codepage, .. and a few other prerequisites.

Cool, what's next?

You'll need a business analyst to look at two things:

  1. Your corporate business requirements, pains, and strategies.
  2. Then, sit with your IT Department's database and application experts, to see how the data can be collected from those trusted data repositories.

This is it? Sounds simple. Well, now you need to build one HUGE data repository for ALL your data. Your IT Department will be able to select the proper data warehouse repository, and schedule how often it extracts updates from all your applications and repositories, apply the needed transformations, and load it all for your to see; IT savvy people call this process: ETL.

This is getting boring, when will I see it?

That is it, you're almost done. Next, you'll need an analysis and reporting tool. You can now create all the business analysis reports and dashboards you desire, without even going back to IT.

For more detailed information, you can search the internet for Business Intelligence, and start the quest for the best tool that fits your business. 

Other topics recommended to dig through: data mining & pattern recognition, projections, forecasting.