3 strategies for using reporting tools effectively

Presenting data through a report designer has helped decision makers better understand the information and make beneficial choices for business advancement. However, if users don't leverage these tools correctly, it will affect their ability to pick the right path and identify areas that need to be improved on. As data displays become more important to company operations, management will need to ensure that staff are using the visualization tools effectively and are contributing to innovation. Here are a few strategies to use reporting features effectively and maximize potential benefits:

1. Ask critical questions
Data should be the answer to essential company queries, but if it's presented in a cluttered, haphazard way, it will be a significant challenge to interpret. According to Information Management contributor Lindy Ryan, for this reason, there are three questions to ask to verify if the display is effective: Does it tell a story? Is it actionable? Is it visually approachable? By answering these queries, decision makers will ensure that their data is straightforward and easy to understand. It will also provide information that can compel the audience into action. Reporting tools will help users create an effective, visually pleasing image that covers the right amount of data without overwhelming the viewer.

"A well-designed, meaningful, non-eye candy data visualization that leverages colors, shapes and design can not only display but can influence the way we receive insights into data, which is something we all can benefit from," Ryan wrote. "And that's a tasty win-win for everyone."

2. Start out small to maximize benefits
Organizations often try to take on everything at once, but with data visualization, this can affect the accuracy of the information and its presentation. Street Fight noted that this could mean taking the time to shop around for the right solution and become more educated on big data projects. This will help users review real-time insights and pick the right data sets for the situation, boosting the potential competitive advantages. Many users also expect results to come right away. While some will emerge faster than others, it will take time to master big data and information visualization. By starting out small, the business can scale to maximize its benefits and ensure that reporting tools are integrated seamlessly.

3. Use simple visuals for deeper analysis
While it's important that an image reflects the data it's presenting, simple visuals are often the most beneficial tools to generate discussions. Data Informed noted that displays will create questions from the audience about the quality and source of the data, spurring an enhanced understanding of the visualization's purpose. For example, information from the Department of Health and Human Services about the Obamacare marketplaces was put into a visual that included state enrollment figures, website traffic data and broke the data down for age and gender. Although the image was a map, it provided a significant amount of information that could give more granular geographic information.

"I encourage people that less is more," Esri Health and Human Services Industry Solutions Manager Bill Davenhall told the source. "It's about putting information on the map that's smart. If you have two periods of time, don't show me all the data ever collected on this. Show me something where the data is doing something you wouldn't expect."

Data visualization is an integral part to the big data process, but if designer tools are not used correctly, it will influence the image's effectiveness. By reviewing best practices, organizations can leverage reporting features to create a successful display that will compel actions for positive business growth.


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