Making improvements to your business’s operations, cutting costs and driving profits starts with understanding your data. In our recent blog posts we have highlighted four main areas that you need to understand in order to build a strong reporting system for your rental business. Those areas are:
1. Understanding what reports you need to provide
2. Understanding what data you have available for the reports
3. Understanding how to transform your data to the proper format and summary levels required
4. Understanding how your users need to consume the reports
In this post, we’ll explore the third critical component. After you have a solid understanding of what reports you want and what data you have available, the next step is to look at how you need to transform and summarize that data to create those reports and metrics. Reporting today is primarily categorized in two main types – operational reports or data warehouse reports.
Operational reports are generally based on live transactional data from your rental system. You or other employees may reference reports that include up-to-date equipment status, accounts receivable balances, or open work orders several times throughout the day. Here you need near real-time data to help your team complete day-to-day tasks. These reports provide detailed information for use and analysis to help identify problems or track lower level progress. And while some of these reports may be summarized up to a monthly level, many times you’ll only be focused on that particular day or hour.
On the other hand, data warehouse reports generally are meant to present data in a way that enables you to make strategic decisions. Data is pulled out of the rental system on a periodic basis and stored in data store called a data warehouse. The data is typically pulled nightly, and certain measures are summarized up along several key dimensions. For example, revenue may be summarized by total company, by location, by sales rep and by customer, or possibly any combination of these different dimensions. In addition, data is usually summarized by various time dimensions – daily, monthly, quarterly, yearly or your specific fiscal periods. Data warehouse reports are better suited to allow you to see trends across time, and to compare your actuals to budget numbers or to prior periods. Many of your key company level strategic metrics and dashboards should be built from data warehouse reports and data.
Different tools exist to support the different methods of reporting. As with most things in the business world, there is never a single answer as to whether your company needs tools to support one or both of these types of reporting. You can potentially build many of the reports that your business needs using either operation or data warehouse reporting tools, but as a general rule specific reporting tools are better suited for one or the other type of reporting. Operational reporting tools tend to be more common and less expensive than full-blown data warehouse reporting systems. Many smaller companies can be successful with only operational reporting capabilities, while most larger companies will utilize both types of reporting tools to help provide the full scope of metrics and reporting need throughout their organization. This is why it is important to go through the first two steps outlined in previous posts in order to properly identify your needs.
In the next post we’ll show you why it’s critical to understand how the users in your organization will fully utilize the reports you have created.
Written by Chris Kennedy, an InTempo Project Manager and reporting expert.