Article by Nitin Patidar
Only true self-service ad-hoc reporting would put business intelligence reporting in the hands of end users.
For most businesses, there are large amount of data collected from various software applications and stored in relational databases
and other type of structured data sources. There is a gold mine of information waiting to be explored and analyzed to help the
executives and their staff understands their business, their customers, and the market place better, and gains a competitive advantage.
The way to explore and analyze the data is usually through reporting software.
In a usual report development process, the business end user conveys the requirements to business analyst, and goes through a
iterative process to get the requirements clarified and finalized. The business analyst writes the specification document and sends the
document to development team. It gets scheduled and assigned to a report programmer. The report gets developed based on the
specification, QA tests it, and then the report is released to the business user. It’s a lengthy process and the user might have to wait
months to use the report.
Other than using static reports already programmed, it is difficult for business end users to perform business intelligence data mining
without utilizing the help of programmers. The needs to perform the data mining tasks can be urgent and the requirements can be
changing, thus there is a great need to enable business users to perform data mining on their own through ad-hoc reporting.
But most of the ad-hoc reporting implementation are limited in functionality and difficult to use. These software use a lot of database
terminologies and require the users to understand database structures and relationships. Business end users do not have time for
weeks of training, nor do they want to become programmers. The only way to make ad-hoc reporting work for the end users is
making ad-hoc reporting truly self-service.
However, most of the self-service, or “guided” ad-hoc reporting software on the market still require report programmers to make a
list of data fields available based on a specification, and then the business user can choose from this list of fields to create an ad-hoc
report. The user is confined by what are made available to them. If the reporting need is outside of what’s supported by the
predefined list of fields and the predefined functionality, then the task has to go through the development cycle again. This is not true
For ad-hoc reporting software to be truly “self-service”, it needs to be intelligent. It needs to be able to understand the company’s
data model, data and business. It needs to be able to understand the reporting requirement, map the reporting requirement to the
database, and retrieve the relevant and correct data. It needs to have the knowledge and know-how of a reporting programmer, and
be able to communicate to and interact with the users effectively in real-time. It needs to be straight-forward and easy-to-use so users
can perform ad-hoc reporting from scratch by themselves. Only this kind of reporting software would enable end-users to create true
ad-hoc reports in minutes, and explore and analyze the data to service the changing business needs. Only this kind of reporting
software would truly put business intelligence reporting in the hands of the end-users where it belongs.
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