As a company leader, you know you need business intelligence (BI) to make up-to-the-minute decisions in today’s fast-paced world. Operational reporting is one way to get the analytics and key performance indicators (KPIs) you need in an easy-to-view, ready-to-analyze format directly from your operational data sources instead of first staging them in a data warehouse. There are many different types of operational reports; understanding which data each type of report conveys and how it presents that data can make it easier to choose the best types of operational reports for your organization.
What Is Operational Reporting?
Operational reporting provides day-to-day analytics and BI to help workers track performance and make course corrections to stay at the top of their competitive field.
Operational reports may be passed on to clients or used internally. For instance, financial consultants might share data with their clients about their investments, while online marketing agencies could use internal operational reports to measure the effectiveness of advertising campaigns.
Know the Different Types of Operational Reports to Choose the Best One for Your Purposes
There are many types of operational reports, all used to convey specific data within different industries. Examples of operational reports used in advertising or marketing might include leads generated, cost-per-click and conversions. In the technology industry, companies might use operational reports to measure the quality and timeliness of tech support and truck dispatches. An airline might use reports to track on-time flights and spot trends in delays to improve performance.
Operational report formats vary based on the type of data presented and frequency of the reports — as well as the BI software used to create the reports. An operational report can be created in a spreadsheet or as a PDF, document or PowerPoint.
Operational reporting also encompasses business dashboards, an operational report format that relies on data visualizations to present information in real time to allow for speed-of-thought decision-making.
Applications can streamline operational reporting with embedded reporting solutions that work with the software already used to collect business data.
To determine which types of operational reports you need, think about the type of data you need to share, how frequently those analytics change and what objectives you hope to achieve through the data.
While operational reports in the form of tables are frequently used to analyze historical data and make sweeping, long-term changes, business dashboards and data visualizations help busy workers make decisions on the fly that can improve everyday operations and productivity.
Understand the Benefits of Operational Reporting
Operational reporting permits business leaders to track trends and analyze data in real time. Operational reporting solutions that integrate reports, dashboards and data visualizations into one application help employees track their progress, improve productivity and adjust to market trends rapidly. It expedites the decision-making process by putting key analytics in front of decision-makers at a glance.
It can also function as a marketing or retention tool within B2C or B2B companies. An ad agency can provide on-demand analytics to its customers to present the results of their ad spend and the benefits of using the agency.
Organizations with robust operational reporting capabilities can also offer the service as a value-add to their customers. Credit card giant Visa uses massive clustered servers and report bursting to share account and tax information with commercial cardholders. Visa also provides operational dashboards that allow commercial account holders to manage and track travel, entertainment and purchasing expenditures.
Use Operational Reporting Best Practices to Make Data Easy to Understand
Of course, the vast benefits of operational reporting vanish quickly if reports are cumbersome, outdated or difficult to read. Operational dashboards especially should be intuitive to navigate, putting all the most important information, including top-level KPIs, in an easy-to-read format at the top of the screen.
Dashboards should use an inverted pyramid format to share the most important, high-level information first, followed by data that shows why the KPIs are important and highlights statistical trends, followed by a more granular look that should lead to actionable insights for improvement.
When putting together operational reports, make sure to focus on the data points the user needs. If more than one group of people will view the reports, consider using separate reports or filters within the report to sort the data based on what’s important to each user.
Know When to Use Operational Reports
Daily or even hourly operational reports can help workers in fast-paced industries react to situations quickly, be proactive about improving business processes and measure their success as situations change.
High-level executives might only need monthly reports to track the company’s progress and assimilate broad-based performance overviews for specific departments.
The frequency of operational reports varies as widely as their formats and the types of users relying on the reports to achieve greater business success.
Businesses in industries such as the financial sector, technology, retail sales, advertising, marketing and healthcare, among others, rely on BI insights generated in operational reports and dashboards to showcase their successes, improve sales or customer satisfaction and find better ways to execute their core competencies.