Operational reporting and analytics is a multi-step process. Each step requires different knowledge and skill. First, you need to plan your business questions. Then, you need to understand your company’s database so you can locate, join, cleanse, summarize, and extract the right data. The industry term for this process is extraction, transformation, and loading (ETL). Next, you need to know how to massage and present the data to support meaningful analysis and utilization. The industry term often used for this third step is data visualization.
In our experience, a single staff member rarely has the knowledge and skill required for both ETL and data visualization. Managerial, technical, and analytical staff usually team up to complete these steps. NGS highly values this need to work together—our software supports each step but also recognizes the optimal way to modularize functions, allowing people with different skills and job duties to work both as a team and independently.
In contrast, many reporting and analytics software vendors take what I’ll call the “all-in-one” approach. Their product designs assume that the people creating visualizations are just as comfortable writing SQL scripts and complex expressions. This logic may be valid if the users you support are analytics consultants.
In companies that rely on an in-house team, the ETL developer usually passes the data to the analyst. Often, Microsoft Excel is where the exchange takes place, with good reason. Human resource departments can more easily recruit analysts with strong Excel skills, and these analysts cost less than analytics consultants. While Excel misuse poses data integrity, timeliness, and security risks, we don’t anticipate the software falling out of favor any time soon.
When you evaluate reporting and analytics software, think about whether you plan to hire consultants with “all-in-one” skills or rely on your in-house team of specialists. The solution you choose should reflect your plan. At NGS, we primarily support in-house teams. Our modular design and integration features for Excel users reflect that approach.
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