6 quick wins to help you speed up reporting


We often come across cases where a business will have an analytics package in place, but the tool is hugely underused. Staff who are already busy with their own work either don’t have time to sit down and learn the tool or have trouble navigating their way round the warren of badly named report. Emails hit inboxes every Monday with reports that nobody looks at but can’t figure out how to stop, generated by a poor analyst who is supposed to decipher what should be in a report from with nothing but a cryptic 8 word subject header in an email. But it doesn’t have to be like that! Below I will briefly outline some very simple processes you can follow that can help encourage people to use the tool and to generate quicker more relevant reports that people actually look at.

1. Renaming analytics variables

If you have any variables that are not completely self-evident as to what they refer them, rename then in a more intuitive way. The names you give these variables will be the names of the reports they correspond to, so put yourself in the shoes of someone who is new to analytics and has to decipher what these report titles mean. This is often hurdle number one in stopping people using the tool, so make sure it’s good.

2. Reorganise menus

Not all analytics packages – Google Analytics for example – will let you do this, but in other tools like Adobe Analytics will, and is a quick and easy way to make the tool much more user friendly. We find it’s best to organise your reports either by relevant department, if yours is a multi product site or by business problem. If your business problem is – what payment plan is the most popular? – then make sure your custom variable capturing payment plan is clearly visible along with your product reports.

3. Keep a well maintained Solution Design Reference

A Solution Design Reference (SDR), is really the holy grail when it comes to staying on top of your implementation and the reports you can generate. It’s basically a document that outlines what variables capture what, and how any other reports (such as marketing channels) are configured. It’s important because if allows you to have a reliable reference so you know exactly what is captured and how, as well as providing a guide for what variables are available when you come to implement more tracking. And if you’re tenacious, try and make sure the most important users in your company are familiar with it, so they will stop endlessly asking you what data is available. A well kept, or even existing SDR is one of the first things we look at to assess the health of a clients reporting and analytics setup. The initial setup and small amount of admin upkeep will pay dividends in the long, believe me, but to make life even easier, we’ve included a template SDR you can use. Simple.

SDR Template

DBi Data Business Intelligence 2015 SDR Template

4. Insist all requests for reports follow a request template

This may seem bureaucratic, but having staff fill in a form detailing the request with all the detail you need will save time as you are forcing them to think about the specifics of the report they want, and why it’s useful. If you don’t get them to do this upfront, then you’ll end up having to ask them at some point anyway. Believe it or not, even including a date range does not occur to a lot of people when asking for a report, so get them into the mindset of outlining what they want in detail from the beginning.

And here’s another template you can use, provided by yours truly

Report Request Template

DBi Data Business Intelligence 2015 Report Request Template

5. Use a ticketing system for all report requests

This is relevant if you have requests coming in left, right and centre. For your own sanity this is very useful as you can manage all your requests in one place and it allows those that raise a ticket visibility on progress. Also, much like the above tip on templates, it forces requesters to properly think out their request, not just blurt it out on an email.

If you’re not already using a ticketing system internally that you can piggy back on and need to prove the value of working this way then there are some great free tools out there like OSDesk and FreshDesk.

6. Create automated reports

Getting repeated requests for the same reports? Make sure you automate any such requests – all analytics tools will have this capability – so you’re not repeating work. Also, if these reports are created using the above templates, then they should be relevant and so people will actually read them!

So there you have it, six simple and quick processes you can implement straight away in your organisation to help make your workload more efficient and get stakeholders actually engaging with the tool. 

By Sean Patterson