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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!

GUEST BLOG: Overcoming marketing isolation

Marketing has been transformed over the past two decades, evolving from a primarily creative, somewhat fringe activity to a core corporate function, defined by metrics.

Yet while the ability to demonstrate ROI may have added discipline and improved marketing’s board level credentials, there is a significant downside to the reliance upon individual, task based measures. It is not just the CMO who is frustrated by the inability to join multiple sets to diverse metrics to gain a deep understanding of the true operational impact of marketing; individual marketers operating in task basked silos are completely blind to the role they play within the full marketing and sales funnel.

For generations now raised to expect instant gratification and an ability to contribute, these data silos are damaging morale and contributing to employee churn – resulting in ever less successful marketing teams. Data may have redefined marketing and provided essential proof of value but the tide is turning.

Without a real-time view of data gathered from all aspects of the sales and marketing funnel, which underpin a relevant dialogue with sales and, critically, build a far more motivated and engaged team, the gains in reputation and corporate value could be rapidly eroded, insists Marc Ramos, Chief Marketing Officer, SplashBI

Providing the complete picture

From Pay per Click (PPC) to email campaigns, social media to content generation, every marketing role is now supported by an extraordinary depth of data, often in real-time. But how effectively is marketing working as a whole? Is marketing delivering the quality and quantity of sales leads required? Despite the proliferation of data, the vast majority of resources are siloed – from sales automation tools to Google Analytics, data may support day to day campaign management but it delivers little, if any, valuable and actionable insight to the CMO.

From the CMO’s desire to identify and remediate problems in real time, to the Sales VP’s requirements for a better dialogue with marketing and the corporate need for accountability, siloed data sources, however deep and however fast, fail to provide the complete picture. And that is unbelievably frustrating, not only for the CMO but for individual marketers. The current real-time data sets offer a marketer great insight into campaign performance; but if that insight stops the moment the leads are handed off, and the overall company objectives are not being hit, the model is clearly flawed. Isolated individuals, however well they perform within their own remit, lack the motivation and engagement that is essential to achieve long term success.

Analysing full funnel data

It is a real-time understanding of the links between each marketing element – and hence data set – that delivers new levels of accountability and visibility between marketing and sales and vice versa. What leads have been delivered to sales and how effectively have sales closed those leads? Where, what and how is this affecting the overall corporate objectives this week, month, quarter or year? With visibility all the way to the CEO, when full funnel data is pulled together, analysed and reported on properly, the entire organisation can be held accountable.

The ability to leverage a pre-built business visualisation of the complete marketing funnel is a revelation. Encompassing web traffic performance and PPC, email campaigns and social media response, a high visual, real-time view of the entire funnel changes every aspect of the CMO’s activity – from real-time campaign tweaks on the fly in response to a drop off in specific performance to the day to day management and motivation of staff.

This latter point is key: while deep, cross business insight will improve the relevance of marketing metrics and enable effective targeted response, this complete, end-to-end view can also re-centre the marketing team by overcoming task based isolation. By creating marketing goals that are inclusive of sales performance, the business can consider and understand the performance of individuals as part of the whole and vice versa: for the first time each individual can understand the value of his or her marketing role to the overall business.

Taking individuals out of their task based siloes not only makes it far easier to focus on the best leads but, more critically, it provides context to day to day activities, context that is fundamental to building engagement and motivation. For the CMO dealing with the constant challenge of staff retention and the fear of losing great talent, adding cross-organisational business insight, including sales, finance and HR data, to full funnel analytics can also be a revelation.

A pre-built visualisation can provide a better understanding of the issues created by a multi-generational workforce of baby boomers, Generation X and millennials; or identify those managers who retain and get the best value from their talent. Essentially, with the ability to rapidly explore diverse business information, the CMO has new insight to support the creation of a true marketing team, rather than a number of isolated individuals, – a team that shares the same business vision and works effectively together.