Beyond Data Visualization: Three Pillars Of Comprehensive Reporting For The Intelligent Enterprise

Thierry Audas

An intelligent enterprise is one that uses data in smart ways to improve business performance and serve customers better. In the last few years, the market has focused a good deal of attention on data visualization as one of those smart ways forward.

Data visualization is important. It aids understanding, reveals patterns, and speeds decision-making. Leading companies, however, see it as a part of a broader approach to managing data for the good of customers.

Recently, BARC, an independent market analysis firm, released a research study titled “The Future of Reporting.” This study reminds us of the importance of modernizing and optimizing our data landscapes in order to get the most from our data.

From my perch in product marketing, I see three critical areas that organizations are focusing on as they revamp their data landscapes to support the intelligent enterprise. Let’s explore.

1. Revamp enterprise reporting

While it might seem unexciting, traditional enterprise reporting remains what BARC calls “the backbone of information supply for decision support.” Enterprise reporting tells the story of business performance over time – and it’s needed today more than ever.

What’s standing in the way is organizational complexity and data silos that impede reporting visibility. To overcome this obstacle, companies need a common data model that simplifies reporting enterprise-wide and a data architecture that empowers business users to search, prepare, and analyze data as needed.

As the BARC report says, “The most prominent challenge is to overcome multiple and conflicting definitions for KPIs, which is typically addressed with rigid and strongly centralized control.” But because change is constant, rigidity is a recipe for failure when it comes to extracting value from data.

Rather, the advice is to modernize data management with “state-of-the-art technology and processes to ingest, integrate, and distribute data.” Such technology can play a critical role in helping companies enforce data governance policies in a flexible manner. The result is better data quality and comprehensive business-reporting visibility.

2. Augment business intelligence (BI) with advanced technology

Leading companies are using advanced technologies to augment reporting and data insight in ways that humans simply cannot do. Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are among these technologies.

Use cases are multiplying. With its ability to identify patterns in the data, AI and ML technology can be used for anything from sorting resumes and optimizing the workforce to detecting fraud in the supply chain.

According to the BARC report, one of the primary use cases for AI/ML is natural language processing (NLP). With the ability to automate processes based on customer text or voice commands (chatbot, telephone), companies can serve more customers faster and better.

The same capabilities can help optimize workforce processes with voice command interfaces for workers on the go. As the report says: “Natural language search and queries make BI easy to retrieve and accessible to everyone.” Whether it’s for employees, customers, or even business partners, natural language capabilities offer a new interface to optimize all kinds of processes throughout the business.

3. Simplify access and drive self-service

“Business users will be the major creators of reports and content in the future,” says the BARC report. “They require intuitive and modern tools which can support them in data analysis and report-creation tasks.”

Data tools, then, should be designed with a “customer orientation” – meaning that they need to be intuitive. The report advises organizations to simplify the way people consume and create content. Every employee should have the tools needed to analyze data and support decision-making. When content is easy to understand and retrieve – when it’s available anytime, anywhere – that’s when companies start to benefit from their data.

To be effective, the tools that enable access need to be built and delivered on a common data model that simplifies data consumption. The report recommends that companies “maintain a comprehensive data catalog to make data treasures easy to find.” While this requires proper data governance, the payoff can be tremendous in terms of increased data transparency and the ability to use data for actionable business insight.

On the road to intelligence

As “The Future of Reporting” shows, companies that are moving forward with clear goals and determination are gaining the advantage in the digital economy. By revamping enterprise reporting, augmenting it with machine intelligence, and simplifying access for business users, companies can extract more value from their data and move closer to becoming an intelligent enterprise.

To dive in deeper on the topic of modernizing and optimizing enterprise reporting, read the full research study “The Future of Reporting” by BARC, an independent market analysis firm.

And please listen to the replay of our “Pathways to the Intelligent Enterprise” Webinar, featuring Phil Carter, chief analyst at IDC, and SAP’s Dan Kearnan and Ginger Gatling.


Thierry Audas

About Thierry Audas

Thierry Audas is a senior director of Product Marketing with SAP and focuses on business intelligence and analytics. He works with SAP customers to help them better understand how SAP solutions help organizations to transform all their data, the foundation of a digital enterprise, into insight to drive innovation and create business value. Thierry has more than 20 years of experience in the BI and analytics field and has held various senior roles in presales, consulting, and product management.