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The evolution of data reporting

By Graham Spicer (pictured), Sales Director, UK & EMEA, of SplashBI

Organisations are drowning in data. The sheer volume of data about employees, customers, suppliers, products, and results has never been so extensive and yet so crucially important. Without a thorough understanding of what data business’ collect, analyse and interpret – there could be a missed golden opportunity if a data reporting platform isn’t included in the mix.

To comprehend this, Graham Spicer, Sales Director, UK & EMEAof SplashBI explores the powers of visual reporting and how organisations can uncover data-driven insights through the evolution of data reporting via a number of different means.

Why is reporting necessary?

Without a doubt, reports are the backbone of any organisation and an integral part of business strategy. A successful data reporting platform allows you to look for opportunities and trends – a true survival kit especially in the aftermath of Covid-19. 

The aim of a business report is to provide a detailed and critical analysis of how the business is tracking in all areas of the organisation – from HR to sales, or to operational departments. Over time, reports have been progressively recognised as an important tool to guide decision-making and data-driven results for senior managers and leadership departments. Using a myriad of ad-hoc reporting and self-service reporting helps businesses to measure performance over set durations of time to analyse what worked well and what could be improved upon. 

Previously, copious amounts of paper with tables and charts used to symbolise traditional data reporting methods. With automation and visual representation of data at our fingertips and the chance to add filters and time frames, the world of reporting has been revolutionised. With the power of technology to help collate, compile and analyse data of all shapes and sizes, strategic business decisions can now be made by senior decision-makers straightway – removing the month end headache. 

The power of reporting

In recent years, the world of Business Intelligence (BI) has been turned upside down. Data became big(ger), meaning that organisations need to incorporate the advances of technology with established IT infrastructures so that they can transition to adopt cloud-based computing. This has resulted in spreadsheets taking a backseat to actionable data visualisations and interactive dashboards. Self-service reporting such as people analytics grabbed the reins and opened the opportunities for a selection of data reporting suites available to remove mundane work. Suddenly, advanced analytics wasn’t just for the analysts.

Understanding complex data analysis has now become a breeze with the introduction of self-service reporting platforms. Advances in technology alleviate the stress and labour hours of gathering, sorting, and using data to make informed business data-driven decisions. Using self-service reporting or even ad-hoc reporting has highlighted the positive impact of putting data back in the hands of individual teams, departments and management. Straightaway, this switch allows individuals to spend time exploring the meaning of the data – rather than inputting data which could lead to the possibilities of errors. In return, the rise of self-service reporting has also brought more attention to the growing necessity for modern businesses to adopt a data-driven culture. This means that decisions are made on facts and observations – and not haste or gut.

The future is bright 

As businesses ride the wave of the effects last year, senior leaderships have quickly understood the importance of viewing data in real-time. Quickly and efficiently, senior leadership teams need data that can be understood and actioned. Viewing data in a visual format across a number of dashboards helps businesses to reach targets and goals – rather than having to unpick the data at hand in spreadsheet form.

Previously, reporting requirements started off as a tool for pinpointing patterns in business’ data, but as time has progressed, requirements and urgency have grown exponentially. As time moves on, this has evolved into a robust, streamlined solution, bringing data reporting platforms alive in real-time. As technology is constantly evolving, the process of implementing any self-service reporting has become much less of a daunting task. Employees want to be able to spend time storytelling the high (and lows) of the data in front of them to senior management – rather than tracing through report after report. 

Having the implementation and adoption time almost cut in half allows employees to be more effective in the role. Now, month-end reporting is such a breeze!

Consumers in emerging markets more open to sharing data

Countries like China, Brazil and South Africa are much more open to sharing their personal data with companies than consumers in Western countries, like the UK, France and the US, according to new research from emlyon business school.

The findings come from a global study of over 22,000 online shoppers, which looked into their willingness to share their personal information, like identification and financial data, with companies when purchasing products.

The researchers; Monica Grosso, Associate Professor of Marketing at emlyon, alongside colleagues from Bocconi School of Management, KU Leuven, CEFAM International School of Business and Management and the Center for Service Intelligence, wanted to understand what factors had an impact on the willingness of consumers to share personal data with companies.

The factors they reviewed were: whether the type of product had an impact, whether the country consumers were from had an impact, and whether and how customers could be incentivised to provide further data even if they weren’t willing to in the first place.

Through the survey, the researchers gathered data on over 22,000 shoppers, who were buying products from seven different categories; identification, medical, financial, locational, demographic, lifestyle, and media usage data.

The research also focused on the privacy concerns and willingness of participants in fourteen different countries, ranging from highly individualistic, such as the UK, France, the United States, Canada and Australia, to collectivist nations, including China, Brazil and South Africa.

The researchers also reviewed whether customers were more likely to share their personal data and information if there was some form of compensation for doing so.

Professor Grosso said: “Given sharing personal data online is often on a voluntary basis, it is difficult for companies to persuade customer’s to do so. Not only this, but in the wake of high-profile privacy scandals, customers have become increasingly worried about how organizations store and exploit their personal data. Consumers have therefore become more cautious about sharing such data with retail companies. Therefore understanding the market, and having a full-proof strategy to maximise data sharing of customers is vital for marketing departments”.

The researchers also found that once offered compensation and incentives for sharing their personal data, consumers in all contexts were more likely to provide their data to companies. This compensation and incentives included a tangible benefit for the customers, such as discount coupons or small free gifts, showing that there are clear, effective methods for companies to use to garner more data from their consumers.

Grosso added: “Companies are always keen to secure as much data as they can from their customers in order to inform increase future sales tailor marketing efforts to their needs, and boost customer brand loyalty, but often customers are reluctant and unwilling to provide such data. These results show trust can differ across contexts, and customers can be further encouraged to provide personal data through a number of tailored methods.”

For companies, the research shows that the willingness of consumers to share varies greatly over different countries. Therefore, if companies are looking to collect vital data from their customers in different country contexts, they should adopt different privacy strategies based on the information type, country, and product category.