Spreadsheet is still widely in use today both in the home and in the business. The latter sector may especially want to consider an upgrade for improved efficiency. Many corporations still rely on spreadsheet for executive reports due to its widespread use. Spreadsheet is a wonderful tool, but in this day and age, there are far superior alternatives, mainly in the form of business intelligence (BI) applications.
How can your business capitalize on the proliferation of the latest BI software and related innovations?
1. Incorporate a Lot of Visuals
A spreadsheet is just a document full of endless rows and columns with numbers filled in. All those digits and scrolling can take hours to completely sort through and convert into meaningful data. With BI tools, all those figures and statistics can be automatically converted into an easy-to-discern visual data. This includes using a number of graphs, tables, and charts – all self-generated and automatically updated as the system continues to receive incoming data as purchases, returns, and signups are made.
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Visual representation makes it easy for everyday people to identify statistical trends without the hassle of sorting through hundreds to thousands of numbers on a spreadsheet and compiling them into a formal report. Why are visuals so important? One study revealed that 67% of an audience found a presentation more appealing when it’s accompanies by visuals, compared to 50% when the presentation is purely verbal.
Visual data is also easy to share and is easily understood across cultures. Share them with fellow coworkers during collaborative assignments, or share them with high-profile sponsors or investors you are trying to woo. They can also be spread through social media as a show of transparency for your consumers. It is also more presentable for submission to executives who may not want to wade through endless pages of stats. The report can be concluded with recommended course of actions based on predictive modeling analysis.
2. Be Brief, Timely, and Concise
You’re not going to impress executives by showing them a stack of numbers that by themselves don’t mean anything. It’s often said that most forms of non-formal writing should be written at an eighth-grade level in order to make it easily understandable. The same applies with data reporting. Of course, executives are very intelligent people (otherwise, they wouldn’t be in that position), but that doesn’t mean they want to strain to understand complex data.
Your reports should be brief and concise by getting straight to the point using your preferred choice of visual data. It should also be in a simple-to-digest format, containing headers, sub-headers, short paragraphs for summaries, and the graphed or charted data. All actionable insight and contextual meaning should be presented in an organized and searchable format.
As mentioned earlier, BI tools also continuously update its data as new information comes in. This allows for more frequent reporting if requested by the higher-ups, and it doesn’t require you to compile another lengthy report since it’s all automated. You can log into the BI dashboard and have a report created on the spot or set the system to have one compiled at a set interval. Reports are auto-delivered to your inbox or your executive’s inbox.
3. Mobile Is a Must in the Workforce
Bring-your-own-device (BYOD) work environments are expected to expand as it has been for the last few years. The BYOD global market is expected to reach $181.39 billion in 2017. Data has to be delivered through one medium or another. In this day and age, mobile devices are the preferred method for logging in data, compiling reports, and sharing them.
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Most higher-ups these days likely also prefer reports to be sent to their personal devices. Traditional briefings and presentations held in a meeting room are becoming less common as companies capitalize on the convenience made possible by the latest BI innovations.
BYOD integration also naturally raises the question of security concerns. Most BI systems use the latest encryption and security implementations. However, you still need to place precautions on your end by enforcing company policies for accessing data/reports on mobile devices. All authorized employees should be required to install a security app compatible with the BI software you are using. Employees should also be required to immediately report any stolen or lost devices that has at any point accessed the database or pulled up a report.
Most executives expect timely updates. They want to see where trends are headed and how they should respond as a result. New BI tools make executive-level reporting a near-automated process. It’s one less menial task that has to be dealt with, thus saves you valuable time and resource that are better directed elsewhere.