Reporting can feel like a dull tool that seldom delivers the insight you seek, and it can lead to frustration. Out-of-the-box reporting is not the right tool for you if you need a sharp knife to get the job done. Custom reporting is required.
Reporting can be very painful for agencies because it may not feel purposeful. Because we are all so busy, it is important to see the value in our activities to justify our actions.
Reporting solutions that come out of the box don’t give you full control over your data or reporting is not very useful. If all we report do is provide generic data and measure metrics that aren’t important to our business, then the time spent on those reports is not well-spent. Let’s face it, who wants to waste their time on useless reports?
Custom reporting can be more precise to your business. This is a faster and easier way to obtain your insights.
Custom Reporting: What is it and why do you need it
Instead of visualizing fixed, standard data points, custom reports allow you to select which KPIs and how they should be presented. You can create custom dashboards using a bespoke reporting tool that focuses on the information most important to your business.
Alternatives include out-of-the-box, fixed reporting that doesn’t offer many customization options. There are many BI tools available that can provide basic insights. These are often descriptive analytics, which show you the basics of what happened, such as how many people opened an email, or how long someone worked on a task.
This standard solution might work well for one aspect of your operation, such as web traffic monitoring. However, if you want to get to the heart of the matter – the resource capacity and profitability of your projects – a set of pre-defined dashboards won’t be able to capture the essence of what’s happening. They will not be able to go beyond the descriptive.
To get a better picture and access insight that helps you understand why the trend is how it is, and what next steps to take, a custom reporting tool will be the best way. Customized analytics has real power because it can be diagnostic and predictive.
The Evolution of Your Reporting Necessities
You won’t need bespoke analytics when you start an agency. Nor will you likely have all the data required to make it profitable. The agency must be willing to invest in the long-term, aspirational process of getting the best out of bespoke business Intelligence software.
Spreadsheets are fine if you have a small team. If you are only managing the schedules of a few people and their projects, custom reporting is unnecessary.
It doesn’t make sense to only use a few of the features and functions of a tool. It would be absurd to hire a large removal crew just to move your home office furniture. Similar situation. It would be too large.
Your reporting requirements will change as your agency grows, especially regarding staff size and complexity. It’s something we see all the time in forecasts. A few years into their journey, mid-sized agencies come to us feeling frazzled. What worked for them when they had a team of ten or 12 is no longer relevant. Their business is being hurt by their lack of oversight and intelligent reports.
The first step towards stability is to migrate to a project management system that unites scheduling and resourcing. Double-booking is no risk. You can easily see who is underutilized and how much time is being spent on a task.
This opens up new possibilities once you have your project and resource data in one place. All the information you need is available to make strategic decisions. As long as the data provides the necessary insights, you can make suggestions based on the predicted outcomes.
Here is where bespoke, customized reporting comes in.
When your agency needs custom reporting
Each agency is different and grows at a different pace. It’s not enough to simply say you should use custom reporting when you reach a certain number of employees or have been in existence for an arbitrary time.
Instead, look for patterns and themes in your operations that could indicate the need to have a better-tuned and more effective reporting solution. Here are some of the major ones to watch out for:
It takes too much time to report with your existing tools
How many hours per week do you spend filling in the gaps left behind by your existing, out-of-the-box reporting tools? Standard reporting tools can only answer predefined questions. This means that you may have to create a spreadsheet to find a solution. This is both risky and time-consuming. What happens if the only person who can use the complicated spreadsheet is on vacation or goes to work elsewhere?
Some people are just not that interested in numbers and figures. Some people don’t have the skills or even the time to spend half of their day manipulating data and improvising solutions.
Reporting can be a time-consuming and painful chore. It might be time for something more customized to take over.
Profit margins are dropping, but you don’t know why
Your balance sheet alone won’t give you any insight into the reasons the numbers look the way that they do. However, bespoke reporting and analytics are very useful because they can be diagnostic. This can allow you to identify weaknesses and inefficiencies in your approach, and it can also help you spot them.
You want to shift from being “reactive” to being “proactive” about the Future
Agency life can be overwhelming because of the pressure to get things done. It can be difficult to get the time and space to look ahead with so many deadlines and deliverables at your fingertips, it can be overwhelming.
If you want to grow steadily, and sustainably, then finding the space to think long-term is essential. You must be strategic if you’re at a stage in your agency journey when you’re fully committed to building the best possible agency.
Custom reporting can make predictions about future performance and can help you plan for the future. It will help you make informed decisions that will lead to steady growth and not just saying “yes” all the time, but also avoid overdoing things, which can lead to exhaustion.
Do you want to know if custom reporting is right in your agency? To help you decide, we have connected with the agency’s finance and operations leaders.