Guide to Business Intelligence Scheduled Reports (Types, Issues, and Best Practices)

Guide to Business Intelligence Scheduled Reports (Types, Issues, and Best Practices)

With so much data in nearly every company, from small business to large enterprise, there needs to be a way to understand it more easily. For this, many companies turn to business intelligence (BI) software, a tool designed to gather data from a number of sources, analyze it and present it in an easy-to-understand, easy-to-visualize manner.

There are many products in the BI field — some of the best known include Salesforce’s Tableau, Microsoft Power BI, and Google Data Studio. And while these are solid products from very well-known companies, software is not one-size-fits-all — each has limitations and is not necessarily right for everyone

One of the best ways to select BI software is to understand exactly what you want it to do.

Reports are one of the foundations of business intelligence, enabling users to visualize the data they collect in an easily digestible chart or graph. Just as important as the reports themselves is the ability to schedule those reports — different types of data can be scheduled for delivery at key intervals without any manual intervention, keeping the business running smoothly.

Knowing what types of reports your business needs can help identify the right software.

Common Types of Business Intelligence Reports

Shift change reporting. Organizations in fields from manufacturing to healthcare rely on reports to pass on information about open issues when one shift leaves and another comes on. Automating these reports creates a seamless flow, but if you’re starting from scratch, be sure the software you choose makes it easy to get started.

One of the limitations of Tableau, for example, is that it requires a properly structured dataset to start with, so it might be difficult to get these types of reports built correctly if you’re not a power user.

Daily transaction reporting.Ranging from cash flow and accounting to inventory and project pipelines, these reports enable a quick view of what’s happening in a business on a day-to-day basis. A lot of data is being created in even the smallest companies these days, so an easy-to-read visualization of this type of data ensures details don’t get lost. Reports generated daily gather a lot of data at fairly low intervals, so you need to watch for latency issues.

A limitation of Microsoft Power BI, for example, is that it is a cloud-based product, requiring all data to flow through the Azure cloud. This can create latency issues and delay the viewing of critical reports.

Weekly reporting. Bigger-picture items come into play in the weekly report. Items like project planning and change management require communication and oversight, and a scheduled, clearly visualized report makes sure no details are missed that will eventually create bigger problems.

Monthly reporting. Strategic decisions come from monthly reports, so it is especially critical that these are accurate and timely and reflect all the information available. Scheduling these reports is key to the success of most business plans.

The software used to run these types of reports must be extremely robust and reliable. A limitation of Google Data Studio, for example, can be its lack of features and the need for workarounds, which is not ideal when creating such critical reports.

Best Practices of Scheduled BI Reports

Many modern BI tools have a lot of limitations when it comes to scheduled reports. With a focus on web based interactive dashboards and reports, in many cases customers are stuck looking at more legacy BI platforms where scheduling was more common.

DashboardFox combines the best of both worlds. You have the modern, live, interactive dashboards and reports and the ability to schedule reports and dashboards for email delivery.

Here are some core features that DashboardFox has when it comes to scheduling reports that we feel are best practices when evaluating any other BI tool for this requirement.

  • Self-service scheduling. DashboardFox allows you to set up a custom schedule for emailing notifications and reports to users as needed.
  • Centralized scheduling. No need to sign into multiple locations to set up and manage schedules for different customers. DashboardFox allows setup from one central location.
  • Mail server support. If you’re sending a report, you want that data and information to flow through your secure mail servers and without any software vendor branding in the email. As a self-hosted solution, DashboardFox allow you to configure your SMTP server and reply to address.
  • User-level security. If you’re creating the same report for multiple clients but want to make sure one doesn’t see data that is classified for another, you don’t need to recreate the report for each client. DashboardFox allows you to switch parts of a report off and on depending on the client.
  • Formatting flexibility.Clean, easy-to-understand visuals are the backbone of a good report. With DashboardFox, you can format the headers and footers, add logos, dates and any other information to make reports unique and easy to read.
  • Multiple attachment formats.Some BI software has limitations on the file format you’re able to export and attach. DashboardFox allows multiple formats, including PDF, Excel and CSV, and it even allows you to directly attach the HTML data.
  • Image support. Charts can sometimes be difficult to view within a report when there are a lot of details. DashboardFox allows you to attach high-resolution PNG files of charts, dashboards or graphs to make it much easier to see details.

Choosing the right BI software is often a process of elimination. Knowing what types of reports you want to schedule, then determining the limitations of software that can’t do it correctly will lead you to the one that can.

How Can DashboardFox Help?

DashboardFox includes a robust report scheduling feature out of the box.

Any user, even a view-only user, can self-service schedule any report or dashboard they have permission to.

Users can also do team scheduling, and schedule a report or dashboard to their teammates without worrying about underlying security. DashboardFox will run the report in the context of each recipient to ensure that each user only receives the data they should see in the email attachment.

Any data grid based report can be attached to the scheduled email as a PDF, CSV, Excel, or inline HTML output. Dashboards and visualizations can be attached as PNG image files.

And users can set up a frequency of daily, weekly, monthly, annually, or even minutes. Why minutes? DashboardFox won’t send out a blank email, so if you set up a threshold based report, you can get a notice anytime the report has data in it.

Pro Tip: If you have one DashboardFox Shared License you can create as many users as you want, and they all can received scheduled reports without and limitations. The DashboardFox report scheduler doesn’t lock the shared user license when it executes the report so for use cases where you need to send reports to a lot of users, only 1 Shared License is needed.

Contact Us To Learn More

Schedule a demo to see DashboardFox in action or reach out to schedule a discussion with one of our technical experts (not a high pressured sales call) and let’s see if DashboardFox could be the right solution for your team.

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