Creating a single centralised point where all your data resources are published is a huge benefit to an organisation. If not done right, however, maintaining it over time can be an issue.

Reporting Platforms vs Analytics Portals

The definition of a reporting system (or report generator) is very simple. It refers to the production of a document intended for human consumption from a data source, which is typically a structured database. Although a user who is skilled in SQL will be able to wrangle a database in order to get the information they need, in most situations the stakeholder who will need information will be a non-technical user. Since the generation and consumption of reports is a fundamental process within a data-driven organisation, it is important to make it painless and efficient.

Individual departments will tend to work with their own data siloes, using their own set of specialised tools. Depending on requirements, reports or dashboards may be generated using Power BI, SAP BI, Tableau or other similar products. These tools, however, are strictly reporting platforms. Although they may generate perfectly valid and valuable reports, they lack certain features and functionality which means they are not a fully-fledged analytics portal.

The Shortcomings of Reporting Platforms

The problem with a reporting platform is that although it expediates the visualisation of data and the creation of reports and dashboards, it does not make it easy to publish, distribute, or discover those same resources. A reporting platform tends to be geared towards authors rather than consumers. This is an issue because a report is only useful at the point of consumption and its success is determined by its timeliness, relevance and accuracy.

Lacking comprehensive report metadata management or an intuitive directory, reporting systems will be limited in the areas of data access and discoverability. Without additional functionality, to access a report a user will need to know specifically what they’re looking for and where exactly they need to look. This can lead to delays and unnecessarily long turn-around-times for relatively simple requests.

The Benefits of an Analytics Portal

A central analytics portal for reports and dashboards is a way to enhance the overall effectiveness of an enterprise data analytics environment. A successful portal bridges the gaps between the disparate reporting tools and brings reports out of obscurity with a tagging, discovery and possibly even a publishing system.

A well implemented analytics portal goes beyond simple convenience but is a powerful tool in building better overall organisational data governance. Haphazard reporting systems means a challenge in establishing a bigger picture of where data is being produced, where it is being consumed, whether it is fit for purpose and whether it adheres to organisation-wide quality and completeness principles. Role based security and audience targeting are difficult to achieve.

The Difficulties of Building an In-House Dashboard Portal

One possible answer to having many reports and dashboards floating around an organisation is to attempt to fabricate a solution in-house from scratch. On the face of it, a bespoke solution seems like a reasonable approach, since every data situation is unique. However, even though the concept of bringing together a number of reporting platforms seems like a relatively straightforward one, in reality these projects typically stagnate and become cost sinks.

Building and maintaining connectors for each individual reporting tool is an involved process. When multiple proprietary source systems are in play, refreshing and syncing data becomes more challenging. There is also the need to establish consistency and standardisation when embedding resources from numerous tools. All of these are substantial projects in their own right. Even if it is built to spec, without ongoing operational funding, resources and maintenance, such an in-house tool will become obsolete and degraded over time.

How Loome Can Help

An out of the box tool like Loome Publish provides a way to quickly and easily establish a central analytics hub without the need for development resources. With pre-built connectors as well as comprehensive integration options, the stitching together of systems is already done for you. You can jump straight into building, publishing and tracking collated reports, real-time dashboards or even custom project hubs. An in-built data catalogue and business glossary provide the data governance tools necessary to maintain order.