Here in part 4 of our blog series, Cutting the Cord, we are going to look at 5 considerations that you will need to make in advance of successfully transitioning your reporting to the cloud.
Data Location & Report Refresh
User Access Levels
Let’s look at them in more detail.
1) Change Management
Before you begin moving your reports to the cloud there needs to be a lot of thought put into the impact of that on your business.
If your business is used to receiving excel files every week, stuffed with information that they have been manipulating to get their information then simply telling them that the reports are now available via the cloud isn’t going to go down well.
Change management starts at the top. The leaders in your organisation need to be telling the business that there is going to be a change. Telling the business what the changes are and the benefits for them as users rather than the benefits for the business.
The temptation is to simply tell people that this change is coming, rather than bringing them on the journey themselves. But if the report users don’t understand the benefits to them individually then they will be resistant to the change.
2) Data Location and Report Refresh
When transitioning your reporting to the cloud you need to consider where your data is located and how often you want to refresh it.
Depending on your business you may have some systems that are already cloud based but you most likely have data stored ‘on premise’, within your own IT infrastructures.
When you connect your data to your business intelligence tool of choice, a copy of the data will most likely be copied to cloud servers. For example, Power BI will create a copy of your data stored inside Azure (Microsoft’s cloud) so that when you’ve built your reports you can access them from that cloud location.
This solution may be ok if you only want to refresh your reports once or twice per day, or if you don’t have large amounts of data to load into your reporting suite, as there are most likely limits on the amount of data you can store this way. For example, Power BI has a 1GB import limit for imported datasets, and they can only be refreshed a mamimum of once per hour.
If you have large amounts of data, that exceed the limits of importing, or your data is changing frequently and you need near real time reporting then importing the data in this way may not be the way forward. You may need consider querying the data directly your data from your databases instead.
Knowing this will help in the first stages of your report creation and save you potentially having to go back and fix how your data sources are being queried and used at a later date.
3) Analytical Pathways
Moving your reports from a spreadsheet to a cloud BI tool doesn’t mean that you have to recreate the same reports you used to have before in exactly the same way. In fact, I would encourage anyone doing transitioning their reports to really consider the design and flow of their reports.
Analytical pathways are simply the way in which people will consume and navigate through your reports. These can be created by talking to the key users of your current reports to find out how they use the information held within them. They may not simply be using the current reporting in the way it is intended. Understanding this will help you design reports that allow people to efficiently get the most out of the data.
You need to remember too that some people will want to start at different points of the pathway to others and allowing them to do that within your reporting designs is important.
4) User Access Levels
In Part 3 of this blog series, we looked at some of the security steps that need to be considered when transitioning your reporting to the cloud. One of those points was around limiting the data that people can see or have access too. The resulting point should be that in the event of a data breach not everything is exposed.
I wanted to bring this back up here as this is something that needs to be considered as people are set up to access your reports. Not everyone will need access to everything, so limiting it based on job role or location is something that shouldn’t be overlooked.
5) User Training
The final step that you need to consider is training. Something that is a very important step in user adoption.
When moving from any system to a new one, sitting down with people and teaching them how to use it will allow them to feel more comfortable with it. They will also feel supported in the transition and not left feeling anxious that they don’t know what they are doing.
You should also consider using super users, or power users, who are just normal report users who have been given more training so that they can be a point of contact for their peers. It can much less intimidating to talk to a peer than it is to a manager or different department about your problems.
Remember too that user training isn’t just for launch but should be an ongoing process. Whether additional training is needed for those who have changed roles, changed responsibilities or simply are new to your organisation there will be a need for them to be trained in the reports and how to get the most out of them.
Helping people understand the transition that you're implementing and making sure they have the right access to the right data at the right time whilst feeling supported if they have problems, will allow you have a smooth transition from spreadsheet based reporting to the cloud.
One of my favourite things to tell people about this kind of transition is an analogy of a new car…
If you change your car then it will feel different. The seat will feel different, the driving position may be different, the buttons will all be in different places, and it may feel unfamiliar at first. But you will still be able to get to where you want to go without too much effort. After a few journeys you will get used to the seat, the driving position and where the buttons are. You may also find new buttons that do things your old car didn’t, making your journey more pleasurable than it used to be in the old car.
In Part 5 of our Cutting the Cord series we will be looking at "Picking the right BI tool for your business".
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