Report automation is one way organizations are beginning to build efficiencies across their various departments. Automating reports has several benefits but is distinctly different from other corporate performance management tools like dashboards. Because of its rise in popularity as a way to reduce costs, it is important to have a basic understanding of report automation and how it can help your business.
In this FAQ we will cover what report automation is, why it is important, and how organizations use software applications to help them automate their reports.
What Is Report Automation?
Report automation is the automotive generation and delivery of regularly scheduled reports. The reports are agnostic to the department, meaning report automation is a suitable solution for any department, including finance. Several departments regularly create reports for management and other purposes that often take significant manpower and manual inputs.
The process of automating reports involves taking the burden of creating and reviewing reports and placing them onto a system that can regularly generate and deliver them at specified intervals. Typically, auto-generated reports are then delivered to end users either through email or some other means.
Automation of reporting usually involves the use of application programming interfaces (APIs) that seek out and retrieve data from various locations and then aggregate it into the software’s system. Automation tools usually include the ability to add comments or customize the delivery messages.
Why Is Report Automation Important?
Automation always produces significant benefits for any process. Reporting typically takes a lot of time and places a burden on resources that forces organizations to decide between allocating time to value-add tasks or menial tasks. Automating reports can save departments enormous amounts of time and frees up staff to focus on more engaging and value-add tasks.
Another key benefit of automating reports is that once the system knows which data sets to pull information from, it produces the reports in a systematic way, reducing the risk of error as a result of manual inputs. This enhances the accuracy and reliability of the information in the reports, giving more confidence to the individuals who rely on them for decision-making.
Perhaps the most meaningful benefit is that report automation shifts the focus from data collection and report creation to data analysis. This creates a value bridge that takes time that was once spent collecting and organizing data and converts into actionable insight as a result of analysis.
Benefits Of Report Automation
Here is a short list of some key benefits to automating your reporting processes.
- Increased efficiency
- Less reliance on human capital
- Reduced errors
- Increased organization of data and information
- Timely reporting
- Creates improvements in analytical capacity
- Helps to manage compliance
- Reduce menial tasks
- Creates more robust reporting packages
- Helps to create additional resources
How Businesses Automate Reporting
Before jumping into automating your reports it is important to take time to consider what your needs are. Consider the relevant information and key performance indicators (KPIs) that are most impactful to your decision-making processes. Take time to think about the desired frequency of your reporting and how you will deliver the reports across the organization.
Finally, be sure to set a budget before entering into any major IT implementation. IT projects are notorious for running huge costs, so be sure to establish guidelines for project managers to follow.
Once you have an idea of what you need from your reporting software and the budget you have, you can begin the process of shopping for software applications. You may also decide to bring the build-out of the program in-house which provides significant control but comes with higher costs.
Typically, automating reports requires a great deal of specialized programming to accomplish. Because of this, choosing a solution can be somewhat difficult, so understanding the scope of what your needs are and what your budget is will help you to identify the best possible service provider if you decide to engage a third party.
Dashboards VS Report Automation
On the surface dashboards and report automation seem to be the same thing, but in reality, they are two distinctly different things. Dashboards provide relevant KPIs in real-time and are often tied to a database. This allows users to monitor relevant information quickly. Dashboards are very visually focused, meaning they are aesthetic and aim to be pleasing to the eye in an attempt to enhance the user’s ability to quickly reference critical data points.
Report automation is the process of creating and delivering custom reports throughout the organization. This means that dashboards are more like a type of report automation and report automation is anything that allows for the direct delivery of data and reports to end-users.
Using DataRails, a Budgeting and Forecasting Solution
DataRails’ FP&A solution replaces spreadsheets with real-time data and integrates fragmented workbooks and data sources into one centralized location. This allows users to work in the comfort of Microsoft Excel with the support of a much more sophisticated data management system at their disposal.
Every finance department knows how tedious building a budget and forecast can be. Integrating cash flow forecasts with real-time data and up-to-date budgets is a powerful tool that makes forecasting cash easier, more efficient, and shifts the focus to cash analytics.
Regardless of the budgeting approach your organization adopts, it requires big data to ensure accuracy, timely execution, and of course, monitoring.
DataRails is an enhanced data management tool that can help your team create and monitor cash flow against budgets faster and more accurately than ever before.