Why Fortify Spreadsheets with a Data Hub & Analytics Strategy? – Part 2
There are millions of casual users and expert data analysts relying on the content presented in spreadsheets. That’s millions of reasons for doing all you can to make content trustworthy, capable of being worked with in flexible and collaborative ways, and well connected to the greater framework of your transactional enterprise data.
Accurate data that can be analyzed on its own and with other data for comparative or more detailed evaluation is achievable when spreadsheets are combined with or replaced by a broader system of data management and reporting/planning resources. Folding spreadsheet use into the mix of that larger system helps guard against the risks outlined in the prior section of this guide.
In the first post of this two-part blog series, I covered some of the things to be mindful of when relying primarily on spreadsheets for planning and reporting. What follows below are some key reasons why the integration of a centralized data management hub with business analytics offers a solid and more cohesive strategy for financial and operational reporting.
Dynamically Update Data While Collaborating with Others.
Creating a temporary sand box for planning and analysis via a spreadsheet is a common activity, but make sure that sand box doesn’t become permanently adrift from the entire ocean of data that drives your business. Content sourced from a data hub and connected to a squad of powerful business intelligence apps helps prevent data from becoming stale. It also makes certain that a single-version-of-the-truth exists no matter how or where users access the info.
Collaboration gets a boost from shared views of data in modern business intelligence and reporting apps like Stratum by Silvon, which also has layers of security in place to protect data as it’s used or updated by collaborative users. For example, administrators determine who has rights to see certain groups of data and who can adjust budgets and forecasts. In addition, dashboard features of today’s sophisticated reporting applications are another excellent team communication advantage, acting as focused spots for teams to share reports, compare current plans to actual results, and link to background details that helps users understand highlighted conditions.
Complete Data Presented In Focused Reports.
A data hub brings together values from multiple sources, then carries out rigorous verification and realignment tasks so data is always in an analytics-ready state. Nightly and on-demand update features of the hub keep the source data current. There’s no questioning if the data is the latest and greatest, compared to the questioning that might happen when opening up an individual spreadsheet.Performance monitoring apps built around the hub can supplement spreadsheet data or become your new tools of choice for navigating through information in focused ways. Ideally, the core apps partnered with the hub will have pre-built reports that track key performance indicators and mission-critical info while also allowing for custom reports and visualizations.
Trusted Data Sharing & Planning Between Apps.
Integrated planning resources and trusted data sharing functionality built into core data hub apps are necessary for more robust data augmentation and sharing. Look for hub/reporting app technology that allow for secure, direct editing of planning-enabled data from its reports. This set-up is better than using disconnected sets of spreadsheets because planning/forecasting teams aren’t using data in isolation from other relevant data that impacts their decisions. Another benefit is that edits are processed into the hub right away after they’re submitted by users. Changes ripple through to impacted levels and refresh other reports containing the data.
Core reporting apps should also allow secondary apps/add-ins (like Power BI) to securely retrieve data out of the hub, but make sure there are auto-refresh features for keeping downloaded data current. Finally, core reporting apps should have import options to bring in data from other sources. Finance teams, for example, could pull hub data from prior periods into spreadsheets as a starting point for new forecasts then upload details back to the hub for comparative analysis with transactional data and to monitor plan performance over time. Forecasting or marketing applications also can be sources of imported data.
These types of features add efficiencies to planning/forecasting tasks and create a bridge between spreadsheets and the data hub. A data hub will skillfully merge valid data into the hub’s overall schema and tables while rejecting invalid data.
Timely Navigation & Exploration of Big Data.
Unlike spreadsheets, data hubs are 100% focused on carefully and efficiently handling big sets of data from multiple sources. A hub’s specialty is data collection, management, and access. Users can open reports of data quickly and in very focused ways. Paging, sorting, filtering, and other customization capabilities present information to users in manageable sets that are easy to navigate. Drilling features let users click to drill up or down through layers of information and control how much detail shows in a report. And linking features can be enabled to connect reports to each other or open external resources relevant to the main report. In spreadsheets, this isn’t possible.
Automatically Share Reports & Performance Alerts.
Apps linked to a data hub with features for monitoring data and communicating conditions directly to vested users places less demand on employees to manually identify business performance issues. With an integrated data hub and business intelligence apps, changes to business conditions can be spotted then acted on quickly and accurately through the use of automated alerts that are shared with key stakeholders.
Explore End-to-End Data Management & Reporting Solutions To Avoid a Risky Overreliance on Spreadsheets
Spreadsheets from applications like Microsoft Excel have a long-standing place in the world of reporting, planning, and analysis. But if your community of spreadsheet users is looking to elevate their planning and forecasting game and you are looking for enterprise-wide data management functionality, then you should ideally seek out a data hub-driven approach to your analysis and reporting. Shifting to that approach brings with it many data accuracy and data sharing improvements that cast broad benefits out across your organization from the regional/operational level on up to the corporate level.