How to Solve Your Business's Reporting Challenges, Part Two
Last week, I outlined a strategy for deciding what type of reports you should use at your rental business.
Today, I'll walk you through an important next step: figuring out what data you have available for these reports. This will help you continue to build an equipment analytics strategy that helps you find real solutions for your most pressing challenges.
What Kind of Data Can You Use for Your Rental Reports?
There are several elements you should consider when talking about your rental data.
- Location: Where is your data located? More than likely you have rental software that already collects operational data for you, but there may be other systems that you use for HR, payroll, or sales. (Or, if your company is like most, you may even have data sitting in Excel spreadsheets that you're putting together manually.) Are these systems on-premise or are they in the cloud? Can you download the data yourself or do you need to contact the vendor for an export? Understanding where your data is stored can help you decide how to combine these sources to get the reports you want.
- Technology: Most software stores data in a database system. A key here is to understand what that database technology is and how you can access the data. Are you required to build the reports inside of the particular tool? Can you access the system to run queries or create reports directly over the database structure itself? Do you need additional tools to access the data or do your applications have those tools built in?
- Type: Once you understand the technology, you can determine what type of data you have available. If you have an operational system, your data is most likely transactional in nature, recorded by date and time. However, some systems may store the data in a pre-summarized fashion for internal reports or to improve operational performance. Those types of files may help you immensely when it comes to building reports, but if that is the only way it’s stored, it may not break down to the level of detail you need.
- Volume: This is a function of how much data you have stored in the system. Again, it may be tempting to think that if you are a smaller rental business, you don’t have much volume. But the reality is, you may currently have more data than you think — for example, in a general ledger system. One of the key drivers in report performance is the volume of data — so it is a good thing to know if you have ten thousand rows or one million rows to summarize for a given time period.
Understanding these issues can take some time and possibly some help from outside experts if you don’t have a large, in-house IT staff. But even a high-level understanding of these key elements will help you determine the best approach to building the metrics and reports you need for your business.
Part three of this series will look more in-depth at how you may need to “transform” the data you have to actually build those reports and metrics. Stay tuned!
Written by Chris Kennedy, an InTempo Project Manager and reporting expert.