In any large organisation, decision-makers rely on the reports they receive from their finance and operational teams to provide them insight into what’s really happening in the business. These reports are built on bottom-up data and aim to tell a story that can influence which direction the company wants to go.
It’s tempting to believe that, by its nature, data is objective and will always display the truth of the situation, but in practice – we soon learn that often the way that the information is visualised and presented has a disproportionate impact on how it gets perceived and acted upon. As a result, having sophisticated dashboards, reporting, and analytics capabilities at your disposal is an absolute necessity for making sense of your business complexity and identifying the signal from the noise.
Making the most of live dashboards
Perhaps the most talked-about component of data visualisation over the last couple of years has been the resurgence of live dashboards that allow for self-service analytics in real-time. Many tools in the marketplace purport to do this well and they all seek to deliver an interactive experience where a user can drill down through different data sets and analyses, unpacking the numbers as they wish, being constantly refreshed in real-time.
These dashboards are powerful because they allow anyone to test a hypothesis by following a unique path through the data, looking for insights that can inform better decision-making in the moment. The value of this is best understood when compared to the traditional method which would be to log a call with the business intelligence team and have your request for a specific report or data sample be added to the queue. Live dashboards nullify that need and it means that a company can be far more agile.
Of course, to do this well you need to have the right software tools at your disposal. If the data is not structured in an intuitive and user-friendly way then this can quickly feel overwhelming and confusing. However, in a tool like Apliqo UX (built on top of Apliqo FPM), you can start at the highest level of granularity and slowly drill down to the level of detail that you’re looking for, without losing sense of the wider context. By leveraging things like pop-ups and navigation widgets, the data storytelling process feels intuitive and linked to the things that you care about.
For example, a geographical analysis comes alive when you can import your own custom map and then tie your data to these geospatial regions – allowing for graphic analyses that far supersede what is possible within traditional database structures. Add to this the ability to arrange dashboards according to your regular processes and every user can craft their own perspective on the same data according to the KPIs that apply to them. As they spend more time with the tools, they will discover how best to leverage the data quickly and efficiently, extracting the insights they need and then getting back to what they do best.
Using reports to shape your perspective
Of course, there are times when you want to extract a report that shows a static snapshot of your data and these should naturally build on top of the dashboards that we spoke about above. Here, the parameters you choose matter even more because they shape the perspective of how the data will be displayed – and thus the story that it will tell.
The best-in-class tools of today allow for near-infinite configurability in this regard, enabling the creation of reports for almost any use case. And if you have a well-built system and data architecture, these reports can be relied upon as a verifiable window into the single source of truth. The trick is to identify those key components that need to be analysed, and then control for the other variables.
Parameter selections make all the difference because they help with separating the signal from the noise and bringing meaningful insights to the top. With Apliqo FPM and Apliqo UX, we have worked hard to make this as easy as possible, allowing users to drill down by different dimensions and craft the sorts of custom reports that can directly impact the decisions made at any level of management. When it comes to timing, the reporting functionality also flexes according to need, with moving annual totals, averages, and many more time series available to be reported on.
Reporting is not a one-size-fits-all and it should be carefully and intentionally used to enhance the data storytelling without giving a platform to the thousands of red herrings that can pull people off track.
Leveraging analytics to get quick answers
As we’ve alluded to previously, the speed at which you can get an answer from your data is the major determining factor for how agile your business is going to be. If you have to wait days or weeks for answers to your questions, then it’s going to disincentivise people querying the data because that simply doesn’t work in the modern business landscape. You need quick answers that can drive fast and accurate decision-making across a wide range of contexts.
That’s why Apliqo FPM and Apliqo UX focus on bringing a suite of best-practice KPIs right to the surface automatically, allowing for basic analytics to be leveraged within a matter of seconds. For many of our clients, having these analytical tools available to run on any subset of the data gets them 80% of the way there already. And then the remaining insights come from more sophisticated custom-built analytics that can be configured within the software.
Speed doesn’t have to mean sacrificing accuracy (and it shouldn’t). But when you have the right building blocks in place such as a robust data architecture, a single source of truth, and plug-and-play analytics capabilities – then the speed of answers is the natural by-product.
When you back these analytics up with real-time dashboards and snapshot reports – you can then build a comprehensive data story that managers and decision-makers can rely on. It’s pure magic once you get it right, trust us.
To explore more about how Apliqo can help you supercharge your own reporting and analytics, check out this product demonstration which walks you through some practical examples of what we’ve discussed in this article. Once you’ve done that, get in touch, and let’s see how we can take your data visualisation to the next level!