Reporting can always be improved. It is often not the reporting technology being used that is the problem. Usually it comes down to people and processes. In this post we share some thoughts on improving reporting at your institution so that you can achieve reporting success.
No matter the reporting tool or data governance solution used, here are some ways to improve your institutional reporting:1. Standardize report request/change process
People desire a consistent, known process for making requests. Establish a report request/change process that is the same every time. And knowing who to contact with a data request gives comfort in the process. Involve the data stewards and report writers in the creation of the process as they will be responding to these requests. Include in the request all the needed information necessary (for functional and technical users) to create or modify a report. The standard request tool can be in something simple like a Word doc, an Excel spreadsheet, a data governance solution like the Data Cookbook or a ticketing system used elsewhere in the institution, such as an IT request system. Improve reporting by implementing an easy to use process for data requests.2. Document the reports better
Understand your reports by documenting them. Create a template for documenting a report that is used by everyone. The report document should be for the functional and the technical users. Make sure that you are very specific in defining reporting terms. And as always, put this documentation somewhere that users can find it easily. Eliminate confusion by having transparency across the institution. Place definitions and report specifications in a central location that is easily shared and accessible to all users. Improve report by documenting reports so that everyone is on the same page, thus saving time and frustration.3. Improve the communication about reports
Communication is key when two parties (or more) are discussing a project or a task such as creating a new report. When a data request is received, make sure that it is analyzed and questioned. The report developer should ask more questions regarding the report from the requestor. And place importance on the purpose of the report request. Ask “Why do you need this report”, not “What do you want on this report”. Have a conversation on making the report better rather than an edict on I want this in the report. Improve reporting by improving the communication between the data requesters and the report developers so that reports are more beneficial.4. Emphasize data training rather than reporting tool training
More emphasis should be put on training on the actual data rather than on the reporting tool. Take the training to the users. Make the training fun and easy. Impress upon the report consumers the importance of data, its governance and that they are key to improving the data and thus improving the reports being used. Improve reporting by enhancing the data training given to those that will be using the data.5. Collaborate with other schools and departments about reporting
Get involved in communities and learn from others. Find out about the reporting successes and failures of others so that your reporting can be improved. Attending conference is one way to learn and collaborate. Accessing communities like the Data Cookbook community is another. Viewing resources from experts like IData and our data governance resources page is another way to learn. Avoid duplication of effort and promote reporting consistency among peers. Improve reporting by having consistency throughout the institution thus saving time/money.6. Link your delivered reports to the documentation in the knowledge base
When running a report there are ways, such as having the Data Cookbook in place, to see the documentation in the knowledge base for those data elements. This commitment to showing this knowledge at the point of running conveys expertise in the data and builds trust. It also eliminates confusion as well as improves decision making. Improve reporting by making information easily accessible right inside the report that the end user is running.
Having successful reporting at your institution is a huge task, so don't try to do it all at once. Start small but think big. Start in one department. Put the data request process in one place and finalize the process before sharing it with other departments. Document your most critical reports first. Create examples of success and let others know about the success so that they will want that same success. Successful reporting is part of successful data governance. Improve reporting by continuous changes to your data governance. We hope that the above is beneficial to you in improving your reporting and achieving reporting success at your institution.
IData has a solution, the Data Cookbook, that can aid the employees and the institution in its data governance and reporting initiatives. IData also has experts that can assist with data governance, reporting, integration and other technology services on an as needed basis. Feel free to contact us and let us know how we can assist.
(image credit StockSnap_ZUAZ22R9AL_Successful_Reporting_BP #1003)