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Data & Analytics, Data Visualization, Business Reporting Optimization

5 minute read

Spending more time creating reports than using them? That’s a problem.

Jan 13, 2022

Written by: Hanna Turner

Data and the insight that it can provide is one of the most valuable assets a bank has to make informed decisions and drive profitability.

Even with the lightning-speed advancement of data analytics in recent years, most organizations are still spending countless hours finding and accessing data, confirming its currency and accuracy, and formatting the information to be consumed by leaders.

To me, there’s a lot of time being wasted in this endless cycle that goes beyond just the lost time repeating that cumbersome process over and over again – daily, weekly, monthly. It’s also wasted in the continual handling of the data itself.

When organizations finally decide to step off that hamster wheel and create structured, repeatable digital processes – better known as automated reporting – they transform the power of that data from getting to the information to getting to the “so what” of the information. This is where the real power of data lies: in the “so what?”

Of course, implementing report automation requires you to flex some muscles and power through some hurdles, but you’ll gain tremendous results from the moment you first press the “go” button: fewer errors, real-time information, and deploying your people – who are the second most important thing at your bank – to use that data to dream up new or updated products and services that will differentiate you in the market. 

What Can Automated Reporting Do for You?

Automated reporting allows you to set aside the nuts and bolts of compiling and validating data so that you can focus on what the information says about your business’ performance. Most importantly, you can grab the steering wheel and follow the right information path for your organization. As you consider that journey, here are some of the most important benefits you can harvest:

  1. Eliminate the hiccups and stave off the risk.
    If you automate for no other reason, do it because it will be easier to create your standard reporting while reducing the risk involved in the process. It’s no more complicated than that.

    Maybe there’s a short-term, up-front expense to orchestrating the project, but you’re saving time and money going forward. Plus, because you must validate data and its authoritative source before introducing it into automated reporting, you’ve taken a great chunk of risk out of the process and you can focus on trusted results the minute the latest report hits your inbox.

    Automated reporting also reduces issues if a report owner leaves the company or changes roles since the report is part of your data infrastructure and should have all the necessary documentation and controls in place to reduce potential impacts of a bad handoff.

  2. Pick and choose the data that matters most.
    Every piece of data doesn’t carry the same value to the organization. Of course you want the information you’re monitoring to have meaning, but your automated reporting should focus on delivering what’s most critical to your operations and success. In fact, you want to curate the information you’re reviewing routinely because too much reporting can slow down your progress.

    Let’s look at this another way. Perhaps I’m worried about my cat’s health, and I’m tracking how much it’s eating. That’s only one factor. I need to cast a little wider net to get other critical information – such as how much it’s drinking, whether it’s lethargic, or if it’s sleeping more than normal (which is always a tough thing to determine with a cat) – and if any of those elements actually tell me anything about what’s wrong with my pet. The right metrics will help you understand what’s really happening – with my cat or your business.

  3. Elevate the information you’re reviewing.
    Simply automating the same old business reports you’re used to reviewing doesn’t do much for the enterprise except cut some time. Use this time to improve reporting to support better decision-making or align with emerging needs, especially in this heavily regulated environment. Those oversight agencies want to know what you’re looking at – from products to customer service and nearly everything in between – and if you’re using the right lens at the right frequency, with the right level of concern.

    When you’re putting the valuable information in front of decision-makers, you’re helping them see how the business is doing, identify opportunities, and react with speed and purpose. They can course-correct in either direction quickly versus guessing which way to go. That’s where the power of automated reporting comes in: prioritizing insight and action over gathering and consolidating. But it’s a double-edged sword: You need to be looking at the right metrics that align with business strategy, or you’re just serving up distractions.

  4. Reports don’t add value to your business: Data and people do.
    What adds value is whose hands you put those reports into and what they do with the information they contain – getting those reports quickly into the hands of people who can extract the insights and use them to make better decisions.

    The reports should be aligned to the vision, strategic objectives and business goals for your organization – or division, or even department that you’re supporting – to ensure alignment between each individual goal and how you measure your progress toward that goal.

    As a junior analyst, I spent a lot of time pulling reports, but I didn’t know enough to ask if anyone was actually using the information or why I was even doing it. As I got smarter and learned more about the business, that line of questioning began to dominate my thinking, and I shifted my mindset. I said I could certainly continue to do those reports, but I could also take that same 10 hours a month and go do something more constructive.

    When we have those conversations, we find a slew of reports to combine or eliminate because no one is using them – and instead dedicate energy to studying the data and uncovering the story behind the numbers.

  5. Automated reporting augments your business intelligence.
    Business intelligence is a broad understanding of how your business is performing, how it could be doing things better or differently, and even what you envision it to be in the future. Information influences your perspective at each of those points, and it helps you understand the gaps between any stages.

    As you build automated reporting, don’t forget to continue to share acceptable metrics and targets so that leaders have appropriate context for the information in front of them. Leverage your analysts to help determine appropriate thresholds that can be integrated into your reporting to help visually show when metrics aren’t performing within expectations. 

  6. Empower better conversations with your MBRs.
    To a large degree, report automation facilitates your Monthly Business Review (MBR) discussions, because the metrics you’re tracking in your reports should be the same metrics you track in your MBR. That monthly review serves as a dedicated, scheduled time to ensure everyone is stopping, looking under the hood and determining when action is needed.

    These various automated reports can shape conversations about what action should be taken based on the snapshots of what’s working (and what’s not) with a back office operation, a product or how your tellers engage with customers. There’s tremendous interplay and interconnectivity between the up-front process of automating reports with the right data fields and the downstream/upstream practice of peeling back the layers on that information to understand what the data’s truly telling you.

Kick-Start the Right Data Conversations

Of course, you want relatively steady inputs and outputs from automated reporting so that you can monitor operations and progress, but you should also remain flexible and adapt your automation based on significant market changes. You also want to review your metrics with regular frequency (no less than yearly) to make sure the metrics you’re using to generate insights are still aligned with your business needs.

Our Spinnaker Consulting Group team knows how to unlock the power of automated reporting. We routinely assist clients in rationalization exercises, where they determine what reports and metrics are needed and why, and we guide them in building the automation that delivers exactly what business leaders value. Ultimately, we’re preparing clients to maximize the insights they get from their information as they put that data back to work for them.