By Alistair Livingstone
Having been in the business of implementing Business/CRM/ERP Systems for many years, reporting has always been the poor relation of implementation. Basically once the system is in, attention turns to reports. It is usually defined as ‘What reports do you want’, i.e. they are created reactively by the client telling us what reports they want.
Wouldn’t it be great if the client could ‘create/discover’ their own reports?
Consider Google or indeed any search engine – how successful would they be if the end user had to be prescriptive about where/what sites they wanted to search?
How often have you started looking for something on a Google search and before you know it you’ve shot off at a tangent, reading about the latest video game/holiday park, football transfer? You end up somewhere you never intended to go.
How about a reporting tool that allows you to do the same?
As a business we have recently become involved in QlikView for utilisation in Business Intelligence (BI). Although I was impressed with the product before I took it on I didn’t realise how powerful a tool it really is! The term “Business Discovery” really means something! (See our recent blog, Traditional BI versus Data Discovery)
All ERP/Business systems come with some form of reporting or the ability to utilise Crystal. So what’s different about Business Discovery? Is it really the Business Discovery element that has knocked my socks off?
I have above average skill sets in Excel and often use SQL queries to connect data to Excel and then utilise pivot table/Power Pivot to create, what I thought, were pretty snazzy reporting tools. However I have now realised how difficult they are to use, and indeed limiting. Don’t get me wrong, they are very good and give me the information I want, but I would end up with multitudes of spreadsheets and pages within spreadsheets to get the analysis I need.
Business Discovery is where the reporting tool allows you to meander through data much in the same way as we use Google – you start off somewhere but the model allows you to go places and ask questions that weren’t on the list at the start of the reporting session. Traditionally most reports are static i.e. run the aged debtors every Monday; give me the weekly sales figures etc. A Qlikview model allows you to start with the weekly sales figures, but then go on a journey:
- What happened to sales in that product area?
- Let me see the sales by geographical area?
- Why does area 1 sell more of product 1 than area 2
This is not a traditional drill down of your pivot tables but instead a platform that allows you to meander through the data without rebuilding data cubes or running reports with different parameters. With Business Discvoery it’s the immediacy of the results that matter – the user gets amazingly quick results. Imagine if Google made you wait 10 minutes to open a new browser window!
Is it as simple as loading the tool and getting on with it?
No! Qlikview provides a free, fully functioning version of their product to work in standalone environments. It has only been transparent to us after working on models for a few months and completing technical training courses that the biggest drawback is our own, historical, inbuilt mentality on reports. We have been trained to create reports that are prescriptive and reactive – Business Discovery requires a different mind-set.
After two months of working on Qlikview the penny dropped. All we had been doing was recreating what we had in Excel as pivot tables etc. – we weren’t using the real benefits of business discovery. Once we did, we saw the dramatic difference.
About the Author
Alistair Livingstone is Managing Director at Eureka Solutions and has over 16 years experience in the business software industry, focusing on ERP, CRM & BI soluions.