Analytics are in everything we do. What we buy, what we watch and how we spend our time are all recorded in one way or another, and it’s someone’s job to use that data as a decision making tool. The availability of reporting software has brought analytics to all job sectors, creating new job fields and adding reporting as a formalized task in existing roles. It requires an understanding of data retrieval, data storage, and reporting software, as well as the ability to communicate this information to other departments and stakeholders.
What is a reporting program?
A reporting program is systematic tracking and analysis of data with measurable objectives. It typically involves three basic steps – get data, analyze data and communicate information gained from the data analysis. A reporting program can be developed to answer a simple question, like ‘do we have enough bandwidth in the office to serve our needs?’ as well as to solve bigger organizational riddles, like ‘should we expand our business into new markets?’
My experience with reporting programs relates to digital marketing, so I have worked with data related to website performance, email campaigns, pay per click advertising and so on. I use data to show that web resources like a company website and social channels benefited by changes I made to them. I can use analytics to show that as a marketing team, we increased brand awareness through events, email campaigns and advertisements. I can show that as an organization, we need to invest in mobile friendly business strategies like mobile optimized website or a customer feedback app.
Why build a reporting program?
The abundance of data available to us can be overwhelming. So why should you be interested in adding or enhancing reporting in your current role? Having access to reporting software related to your organization helps you know more about projects you manage, your department’s success and your organization as a whole. Knowing where you stand can tell you how to better spend your time and can help you communicate your need for resources within the organization.
Getting into reporting can also benefit you professionally. Most companies employ an annual review process and these typically feature some discussion of progress and goals. Having more information about your productivity allows you to create realistic and measurable professional goals. By providing more data on the performance of initiatives you manage, you can find ways to show your contribution to your organization.
Before Launching a Reporting Program
Reporting programs span months, quarters and years so you are in it for the long haul once you launch a program. Consider the following points prior to beginning.
What data do I currently have access to?
Depending on the type of reporting program you are building, your data could come from anywhere. A lot of what you need likely already exists within your organization. Phone calls made per month, bandwidth used per quarter, staples orders placed per year. What data do you need to achieve the objectives of your reporting program and if it already exists, how can you get access to it?
What data do I need access to?
After considering what data is already available to you, where are the holes? What data do you still need and where can you get it? This data may be publicly available, like Google Analytics, or you may need to pay a subscription fee to access it. Have an understanding of any costs your reporting program may incur at the outset so that financial roadblocks to building your program can be overcome with a business case stating that the organization is missing out on opportunities that your reporting program can identify.
How much time can I commit to maintaining this program?
It’s important to consider the amount of time it will take to build and maintain a program and where this program falls in your priorities. The complexity of the data retrieval and analysis will determine how much time you will spend monthly, quarterly and annually on this program. If you are expected to report on your program, how often and how formally? It’s always helpful to consider any optimization that may help you stay on top of your program. Many reporting systems allow you to set up monthly automated reports so your data is delivered to your inbox in a more meaningful fashion.