If you’re thinking about installing or upgrading a reporting system, you’ll find yourself facing a choice. Many systems require you to decide between self-service and automated reporting features. Each has distinct advantages and drawbacks.
Self-service Vs. Automated Reporting
Self-service and automated reporting both use similar algorithms. They go through the same data, and they both present actionable information to users. The primary difference lies in the regularity and content of the reports themselves. Automated reporting creates the same basic reports on a set schedule. It examines data from the same places and puts together updated, but otherwise identical information. On the other hand, self-service reporting depends entirely on the immediate demands of the user. Users ask for what they want, and the system searches the designated datasets in order to create the requested report. Unlike automated reporting, self-service systems only generate reports upon request. While this may not seem like a major difference, it affects how and why the data can be used.
What is the Data Being Used for?
The fact is, these two reporting systems perform very different functions. Deciding between the two depends on what kind of demands you put on your reporting system. Automated reporting works for Business Intelligence companies that need regular updates on the same data sets. You can always adjust the preprogrammed settings for automated reporting, but the primary advantage of these types of reports is their ability to function without user intervention. The more times you are required to adjust the reporting system, the less useful the automated reporting system becomes. The strength of an automated system is regular reporting. If you need to gather similar data for things like sales reports, spending summaries, and other large-scale, regular information presentations, automated reporting is perfect for you. It saves a lot of time for IT departments, which are free to focus on advancing the business rather than digging up and translating data.
Self-service reporting isn’t as effortless as automated reporting, but it is far more flexible. You don’t have to be especially good with technology in order to use self-service reporting. Even though the task you assign the system would be time-consuming for a human, all you need is a system with a user-friendly interface. You can request highly customized reports in a matter of minutes. Such reports are good for detail work, comparisons, and emergencies. You can see the exact numbers you need without wading through extra information, or you can pull in huge amounts of data to compare production rates and sales quotas. Self-service is good for IT departments that serve as report farms, but the system is even more effective in the hands of the decision makers themselves.
The best reporting systems provide both automatic and self-service reporting. If you must choose, however, be sure to figure out what you need most from your system. Are you looking for something to help you with regular reports, or do you need an exploratory tool that works on demand?