Ways to get an extra buck from existing reports


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In today’s world everything is digitized and recorded. Our day to day transactions, our searching history, our social media updates everything is getting recorded somewhere. We leave a digital footprint every time we get online. All these information can be used to arrive at a strategic decision with the power of modern reporting and data mining technologies. Companies are leveraging the power and potentials of terra bytes of data to make informed decisions in their everyday operations. In the present scenario before a sales rep meets a prospective client he has volumes of information about the client, about buying patterns, current needs, credit status of the customer, last transactions made by the client etc. With the power of these data he has a higher chance of closing the deal or servicing the customer in a better way. Within the organization, weekly sales reports region wise, opportunity conversion ratios of each department etc can be generated easily and put to the maximum use when analyzing trends, in checkpoint meetings. All these powerful reporting technologies concentrate on how flexible it allows users to use them. These reporting technologies unfortunately lack in the accessibility options they provide. For instance in the current scenario, when the sales rep wants to view the products that his prospective client may be interested in, he has to feed the necessary details into the reporting application and then hit on a generate report to get the necessary details. This involves quite a bit of manual actions to be done by him and takes some amount of his time. Moreover there are lots of possibilities of errors with the current scenario.

In order to leverage the power of available data mining technologies to the full extent we need to make the reports available readily to the end user. Reports must not be an isolated entity in the application but should be part of the application providing apt and necessary data at the right place to the right people. The future is about how easily the reports can be made accessible with minimum inputs required from the end user. With a little bit of creativity and customizations one can embed a report practically anywhere they see fit. There is no restriction to the places where one can embed report into the application. Following are some of the ideas to embed a report in an application.

1. Displaying reports on Home screen: This is a very straight forward and easy option. Almost all users will be having access to the home page and providing formatted data gives them an added advantage. Care must be taken to design the information displayed on these reports. Generally quarterly data or data to denote the trends can be displayed instead of specific data. Customization can be done to traditional report formats and used for home page screens.

2. Reports inside dashboards: This is the first place to explore when we attempt for embedded analytics. Inside the sales dashboard, we can have a subsection displaying a report. Necessary parameters for the report can be passed from rest of the dashboard fields. The main advantage of this is that the user needs to query for any required information only once within the dashboard.These reports within the dashboard can include specific data like any customer’s purchase history, or a product history etc.

3. Displaying reports using inline frames and portlets: This option is very similar to embedding reports within a dashboard, but this is applicable to less frequently accessed reports. There may be some reports which sales rep will not be using very often. For instance a customer service representative will not have much use to customer’s prospective products if his primary intention is to handle customer’s existing products. Displaying such reports as part of dashboard may lead to clutter. So by providing a hyperlink on certain field we trigger the report, displayed in a separate frame / dialog box.

4. Embedding reports inside reports: Well this gets a bit tricky. Consider the scenario of a sales manager viewing a report of top grossing customers, their trends etc. He comes across the same sales team for several customers so he is interested in getting a report of all top grossing sales teams and then later wants to resume with his original report. This is possibleby embedding the sales team report inside customer reports. The whole idea of this report within report is to give better navigation from an existing report by maintaining the context. This can also avoid clutter within the reports and make it more presentable, accessible by displaying the required data alone and provide links to fetch more information. This option leverages only reporting technology capabilities and independent of the CRM technology.

5. Reporting widgets: This option is for embedding reports within standalone pages outside of traditional CRM packages. With the future of anytime anywhere data concepts we need to make our reports readily added on to other platforms in the form of plugins. This trend is catching up fast now and the latest CRM and reporting technologies provides tools and options for such plugins as part of their features. This improves cross functional access over data.

No way is this list exhaustive and attempting to make such a list will not be fruitful. With technology undergoing changes drastically every day, ways to embed reports keep evolving. Application of reporting tools within the business context plays a very major role in opting for a strategy to embed the report. Embedding strategies can be formulated by analyzing how a user uses a system, how the reporting data is put to use to make decisions. Embedding analytics report can be part of the usability enhancement exercises. But the strategy to embed a report is not that general. What is applicable to a type of business may not be applicable to another industry. Constant intervention by Industry / domain specific expertise needed to bring in new embedding frameworks and tools. They can be further refined to come up with specific embedding strategy for a specific client.

Advantages of embedded analytics can be delivered from day one. In fact data mining tools can be leveraged to their maximum potential with these embedded analytics solutions in place. After all what is the use of having a power full report when no one uses it. Embedded analytics offers better accessibility by eliminating the need to go to a different view when historical data is needed. The possibilities and advantages of embedded analytics inside the applications are endless. To name a few, embedded analytics saves the cost on training the sales rep in reporting technologies, provides better access control over data, data gets utilized more effectively improving productivity.

If the decision to embed the reports is in place, then implementing it becomes an easy task only if proper planning is done from the beginning. Traditional convention / methodology of preparing reports at the final development stages cannot be followed. Using the modern presentation layer technologies, one can modify the templates of reports to seamlessly integrate it as part of the application. As application needs to be tweaked to embed analytics into the dashboard or home page, it not only involves persons with reporting expertise. It requires substantial effort from application developers, administrators and other supporting tech team members. Therefore necessary expertise needs to be involved in the exercise at the right stage. Proper planning up front also allows coming up with the necessary reports as per the required business requirements. It is up to the power of our creativity and flexibility of the CRM application that can be leveraged to make the reports more accessible.

Eshwar C
Infosys Ltd
I am a technology lead with Infosys for 5+ years and I have worked for clients in communication, publishing and legal services domain having good hands on experience on business transformation engagements; upgrade projects, integrating new systems to enterprise architecture, migrating users, retiring legacy systems, impact assessments and proposals using SDLC and agile project management methodologies.


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