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Data, information, and insights are all around us. Before we even realize our business potentials and want to act in our competitive market, there is always a new business plan to make, a new strategy to develop, a new report to generate - and they all take time. Since massive amounts of data are generated by every second, businesses are always on the lookout for the best possible online data analysis tools that will make their processes easier, faster, and more effective.
Productivity has become the epitome of successful business processes. While every manager seeks how to increase productivity and decrease business costs, some invaluable processes can push towards sustainable business development - automated reporting and systems are the answer you've been looking for.
That said, in this post, we will explain what is an automated report and its benefits, the ins and outs of the automated reporting process, and finish with examples from the real business world. After reading this article, you will be equipped to create your own automation practice and upscale your reports with the help of a modern online reporting software.
Let's get started.
What Is An Automated Report?
An automated report is a management tool used by professionals to create and share business reports at a specific time interval without the need to update the information each time. These updates are usually made in real-time with the help of automated reporting tools.
Automated reports completely eliminate traditional means of communicating data since they rely on business reporting software that uses cutting-edge business intelligence, technology, and smart features such as interactivity, a drag-and-drop interface, and predictive analytics, among others. These reports have the power to store all your data and generate beautiful dashboards that can tell your data narrative in a simple, visual way.
The technology behind the reports will enable triggers so that you don't have to manually check if an unexpected business event occurs or export multiple spreadsheets to generate one single file.
Benefits Of An Automated Reporting System
Now that we’re up to speed with the concept of automated reporting, let’s look at the benefits. First of all, when asking yourself the question, “Why should I use report automation?” the short answer should be, “why not?”
Report automation will improve your business at its core, empowering you to develop strategies and initiatives that are better than your competitors’. To put this into perspective, here’s a rundown of the main benefits of using automated reporting for your business.
- Time & cost savings: If you automate reports, you will save colossal amounts of time and money on manually tracking, updating, and adding data to your reports. Naturally, time and money are correlated, so by automating reports, you will reap the rewards of valuable data-driven insights while empowering your team to place their efforts into more creative or strategic activities. In addition, an automated reporting system is designed to provide accurate, dynamic, and highly visual insights that will bestow your business with greater intelligence. In turn, this will improve your decision-making while giving you the insight to streamline any inefficiencies in your processes and, ultimately, save you more money while generating more profit.
- Accessibility, transparency & productivity: By serving up automated insights from one central location, automatic reports will give everyone in the business the tools to perform better in their individual roles while benefiting from shared visualizations that are robust, reliable, and accurate. As modern automated reporting tools are easy to use and understand, everyone will find them accessible. As they will ensure all of your essential insights are up to date, it’s possible to use automated reports to support discussions in collaborative brainstorming sessions or team meetings, leading to increased creative output. The result? A more transparent, more collaborative environment that will keep your teams connected with each other, leading to increased productivity across the board, and a business built for sustainable growth.
- Real-time decision-making: When using manual reporting tools or processes, it’s easy to get bogged down. In addition to this, more cumbersome reporting processes return data that is harder to understand and often inaccurate. With automated reports, you will gain access to accurate data presented in the form of visual KPI metrics - information that benefits real-time decision making. In essence, automated reporting provides clarity. It is simple to set up and serves up real-time data that users can leverage with a simple glance. If you see an issue emerging, you will be able to consult your report and make an informed, accurate decision that will save you time, money, or an organizational headache.
- Growth & development: The above elements, coupled with the fact that you can access report automation tools 24/7 from multiple devices, mean that by embracing this innovative branch of data analytics, you will set your business up for ongoing growth and development. With the help of automated data reporting and an interactive digital dashboard, you can respond to constant change with confidence while maintaining a level of innovation that will give you an all-important edge on the competition at all times. This is an asset that’s invaluable in an ever-evolving digital landscape.
"Increasingly, the work we do is enabled more and more by new IT, including automation, robotics, and intelligent platforms." - Pierre Nanterme
Report Automation Tips, Tricks & Tools
67% of business decision-makers believe implementing digital or software solutions is vital to remain competitive.
The potential of automation certainly has a positive impact on business productivity levels since the entire workforce can focus on more human-centric tasks while embarking on deeper discussions surrounding the meaning of the data, migrating away from tedious tasks and manual calculations in the process. But how does this look in practice?
To make sure you make the most out of report automation, before you start, answer these critical questions and consider these tips or tricks.
1. What kind of KPIs do I need to integrate?
KPIs are the center of each report and you need to communicate them clearly and on-point. Choosing the most important ones to generate a comprehensive narrative should be your first step in automating reports. By creating visuals with the help of a dashboard designer, you can have all your KPIs on a single screen, ready to explore by utilizing powerful interactive features.
2. At what frequency do I need to send my reports?
This question will help you determine whether your report will focus on an operational level or strategic. Operational reporting has its foundations in shorter time frames, often daily or weekly, and concentrates on lower-level KPIs. Strategic, on the other hand, looks at metrics that need to be monitored over a longer period of time to be able to derive the best possible conclusion.
You can explore our guide on financial reports, where we analyzed various types of reports and provided examples.
3. What type of report would suit my recipients the best?
As mentioned, report automation has numerous features that should make your working life easier. When it comes to developing a proper automated reporting system, you should look for these invaluable options to get the better out of your reports:
- Standard and customized reports: No matter the number of recipients, standard and customized reports are simply sent on designated email addresses on a defined schedule. Their content and filters can be customized so you have complete control over the data you want to share.
- Live dashboards and/or secure viewer area: If you want to share or send your whole dashboard, a simple URL is all you need. Additionally, you can assign a viewer area where the user can access the dashboard and use filters that are assigned by you, but they can't edit or rearrange the dashboard themselves.
- Embedding the dashboard: By taking a step further, your dashboards can be embedded into your own application or website, for example, you can take over the complete product and present it to your clients as your own. By using embedded BI tools like datapine, you get all the benefits of the software without having to invest tons of money and time in creating your own.
- Printing bounds: Printing, although a more traditional way of presenting data, can sometimes prove to be useful, especially for an in-person meeting. You can simply set a reminder for printing your dashboards, and all the updated data will be there, in a functional PDF or PNG format.
4. Define your core aims & goals
While this sounds glaringly obvious, you’d be amazed at how many people overlook this golden rule. Now, we’ve already outlined the importance of setting your KPIs. What we mean here is: decide on the specific departments, processes, or functions you feel need streamlining and define your core data automation goals within those parameters.
Do you want to save time on proving the worth of your paid advertising efforts? Are you looking for a better, more effective way of displaying your team’s performance metrics? Is saving time sifting through your recruitment data a top priority? If you set specific automation goals, you will streamline your data analytics strategy in the right areas. As a result, your automation will provide responsive, intelligent insights related to the departmental functions that matter most. For example, your sales team can constantly access your social media reports and see how many leads you are getting from a certain campaign.
5. Provide access & education
When it comes to automated reporting, the more people can benefit, the better. Rather than giving sole access to a selected few, you should run workshops to enlighten everyone in the business on the virtues of automated data reporting.
By giving everyone in your organization some form of access to your reports and teaching them how to use them to their advantage, you will create a data-driven reputation that will increase productivity and engagement across the board. This also extends to partners and clients: by providing access to your automated reports, you will empower them to check their performance by working with responsive, reliable live data.
6. Keep refining & measuring
Automated reporting is incredibly powerful and valuable. But that doesn’t mean you can run a report and expect it to deliver value indefinitely.
To enjoy a healthy return on investment (ROI) from your automated-based reports, you should check in with them periodically to ensure that the data you’re working with is still relevant. If your business evolves or the industry around you changes, you might need to redefine your goals slightly and make refinements to your reports. Doing so will ensure you keep on reaping those business-boosting rewards.
7. Chose the best tool for your business needs
No matter the industry, the process of data gathering is tedious and time-consuming. Imagine how much time is reduced by simply introducing automated report generation across departments. To be able to make the most out of it, you should choose report automation tools wisely according to your business needs.
While some business intelligence tools include automated reporting features as well as interactive dashboards, others such as datapine, offer in addition a number of advanced ways to perform quality analysis such as predictive analytics, data connectors to see all your information in one place, and data alerts that let you know when anything unconventional happened in your data. Like this, when choosing your automated reporting tools you should always take into consideration the extra potential you can extract from them.
8. Modern automated reporting tools
Working with modern automated reporting tools is the way forward. As we told you, BI solutions such as datapine, offer the option of creating standard or customized reports while consolidating your most valuable business data in one dynamic and accessible dashboard. Watch our video overview to see our automated reporting tool in action:
To fully understand how a report automation software benefits operational and strategic initiatives of companies, no matter how big they are, we have prepared industry real-world examples that we will explore in more detail and ensure you get a visual understanding of automation in practice.
Automated Reporting System in Business Scenarios
To put the power of automated reporting into perspective, we’re going to look at five dashboards based on five common business functions, departments, and scenarios.
1. Automated reporting in the manufacturing industry
The manufacturing industry needs continuous automation throughout processes, and each part of the company needs to work flawlessly in order to avoid potential business issues and cost increment. That's why an agile BI dashboard such as the one below can help in the process.
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This dashboard aims to report on the production status of a manufacturing company. Automation, in this case, is crucial. When there are numerous touchpoints to control, analyze and react to, if necessary, the software will prove to be priceless. By letting the dashboard automatically monitor and report if there are any issues, companies can improve their efficiency - exponentially. Manufacturing KPIs such as the production volume, the number of active machines, and the top 5 machines by production volume will certainly give you a clear overview of the status of your equipment.
You don't need to manually update any data, automated reports will provide the full scope of your production processes and deliver information in a timely manner.
2. Automated reports in marketing
Marketing is one of the functions that need regular and updated reports, no matter if it's daily, weekly or monthly data in question. To be able to launch and optimize the best possible campaign, a visual marketing report can let you focus on the data at hand, excluding the time needed to export spreadsheets and write a completely new document. In marketing, this notion is precious.
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We can see how easy is to explore the data depicted in this report above that focuses on the performance of paid promotional efforts. By sending this report weekly or monthly, without the need to manually update each piece of content, your marketing department will save countless hours in report creation. Additionally, if you manage multiple client accounts in an agency, then this report can also be embedded, and white-labeled as a client reporting dashboard, so you can use it as your own, brand and adjust it so that it fits your clients' needs.
3. Automation in logistics & transportation
In a thriving digital economy where it’s possible to connect with customers or clients wherever they are in the world, you need to ensure your transportation logistics are fully optimized across every key touchpoint.
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Designed to offer a detailed snapshot of essential logistics metrics, including loading & weight as well as delivery times, destination, and status, our automated transportation dashboard will help you streamline your strategy with minimal friction. Here, you can pinpoint issues or areas that need improvement while continually benchmarking your activities for ongoing fluency, consistency, and growth.
4. Automation in sales & revenue growth
Where would your business be without a regular flow of sales? To maximize your sales efforts and campaigns while maintaining consistently high productivity levels, you need the right insights - and our sales dashboard delivers.
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Boasting a balanced mix of KPI-based sales graph types, charts, and visualizations, this dashboard offers deep-dive information based on your cross-selling or upselling activities, incremental sales according to a campaign, revenue per sales rep, and more.
This melting pot of automated insight will help you refine your messaging, strategies, and lead generation campaigns for constant growth and success while driving down unnecessary costs - an essential tool for every modern business.
5. Automation in procurement & quality control
How you procure your goods, services, and assets will have a huge impact on your business’s overall growth as well as its bottom line.
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Our automated procurement dashboard is a nerve center of information, serving up KPI-centric insights including vendor rejection rates & costs, supplier quality rating, emergency purchase ratio, purchases in time & budget, and spend under management.
By accessing this stream of information frequently, you can assess the value of your existing suppliers while identifying any potential kinks in your procurement process. By doing so, you will become more financially efficient and ensure there are no roadblocks or bottlenecks in your procurement chain, making your business healthier in the process.
Automated Reporting Conclusions
Automation is cost-cutting by tightening the corners and not cutting them.” – Haresh Sippy
Businesses work best when coupled with automation. By embracing the power of automated reporting software, you will boost your productivity significantly while gaining the ability to focus your efforts on driving the business forward. We are living in a bold new tech-centric age, and those that get on board will win long-term.
On our journey, we’ve explored an official automated reports definition, looked at a definitive roadmap as well as real-world examples to create such reports, and explained how reports automation can lead to sustainable business growth. There is no denying it: automated report software will ensure your business thrives. You will gain an edge over the competition.
Are you ready to improve your business? Try datapine for a 14-day trial to start automating your operational and strategic efforts today.