Self-service reporting solutions: take the lead before the cloud providers do it

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While we pointed out the problems in the first of our article series on the subject of professional reporting service usage, we now want to look at possible solutions.

Summary of the typical actual situation in companies like yours (medium-sized to large companies):

Your cloud reporting providers such as Microsoft for PowerBI, Salesforce for Tableau and Clique Sense promise you out of the box solutions with which every user in your company can link, edit and analyze data in seconds.

In order not to make your data available to cloud providers defenselessly and your costs rise uncontrollably, you have to consider at least the following points in your company BEFORE your users reach a critical mass in the company (in the fourth part you will learn what you can do if it’s already too late) 

1. Analyze whether a further analysis or BI tool is really necessary We often see that companies such as large and medium-sized companies are thinking about another analysis tool or toolset. The problem is not that there are no tools already in use in the company, but rather that too many different tools are already in use. Does it make sense to only use another tool for the visual appearance of the reports and to expand the complexity in the company?   

2. Try to build your own platform (s) that are scalable and secure Use existing Platform as a Service (PaaS) solutions such as Microsoft PowerBI, Tableau or Cliq to use your BI and reporting solution in a centralized manner. You should make sure that you centralize the management of the platform and at the same time leave the users enough freedom to use your applications on the platform according to their individual needs. At the platform level, it should be clearly defined which measures you implement in the operational business of your platform management IT department in order to keep the data securely accessible.  

3. Establish clear service roadmaps and discipline your IT departments to update them regularly If you have an overview of how the service should develop in the future, you will recognize risks early on and, ideally, eliminate them before problems actually arise. In addition, they should make it clear on a timeline when which features of their solution used are activated by the cloud provider and when. Above all, take into account the costs that you may have to face. Ask yourself what effect a new feature will have on the consumption of a purchased service, for example, and how this can in turn be reflected in the costs. The big cloud providers are extremely good at maximizing their sales and thus increasing your costs. 

4. Don’t be tempted by free offers  The large cloud providers in data and analytics often offer free trial versions. This acts like the hook on the fishing rod. Your employees take a bite, are happy about the possibility to create reports quickly and easily and load data unhindered into the (still) free solution. The problem is that your employees and colleagues are reluctant to give up their hard-earned reports after the test phase. Thus, the fate is sealed as soon as a critical mass has been reached. Your employees and colleagues will decide in favor of the solution that is already in use without a central decision being made rationally.

5. Analyze the price and license models in detail and take your time if possible  Reporting solutions often consist of a bundle of licenses for installable desktop installations, cloud environments that are billed per user and storage in the cloud that is billed for consumption. Calculate in detail what costs your company can incur and please do not underestimate the possible support costs and possible support services that will be necessary if you cannot handle a report on your own.   6. Get professional help from experts!

An advanced data analytics team needs the following roles:

Data Engineers

Data Visualization Experts

Data Analysts

Data Scientists

Data Translator / Storyteller

Whatever you do: carefully examine what costs you can incur and what data risks a cloud solution entails. Often times, companies forget that you also need in-depth knowledge of data engineering and data analytics for cloud solutions in order to consume the services securely and professionally.

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