Automation Solutions
August 7, 2019

How to Make the Most out of Report Automation & Dashboards

Every business looks for the best and most cost effective ways to free up time and allocate their resources wisely. When it comes to marketing reports and the collection and analysis of data, the use of report automation and dashboards are unparalleled in maximising efficiency.

What is Report Automation?

Report automation automatically refreshes reports in defined intervals and delivers them to specific places (e.g. email addresses or for view on an online tool). It removes the need for someone to process the reports because it becomes systemised and automatic by way of a software system.

Report automation typically works through APIs to fetch data from various platforms and integrates it into the software’s system. Most automated tools also include the option to add notes, comments, customisable email messages and more so that the automated report can be given context and delivered to the right people, at the right time.

Report automation has multiple benefits, including: saving time, viewing robust data from various sources in a single place, enhancing the accuracy of information and providing you with more time to analyse the data rather than collecting data.

This last benefit is key as many businesses waste valuable time collecting and reporting data, rather than analysing it, to use for actionable insight.

Reasons to Use Report Automation

Do you like to save time and money? In business, every minute spent has its own associated opportunity cost, so you don’t want to waste valuable time and resources on processes that can be automated, especially if they are complex.

By leveraging report automation tools, your business and teams will benefit from the following:

  • Increased Organisation - All information will be accessible in one place and for all intended parties to view.

  • Efficiency - Automation allows for more reports to be produced in less time.

  • Better Reporting - Because automation software can pull data from various sources, analytics are more robust.

  • Less Human Resources - Automation software can eliminate the need for programmers.

  • Less Errors - Less manual work and data entry results in less human error.

  • Remove Mundane Tasks - Potentially increase employee satisfaction by removing the mundane and repetitive task of pulling and compiling reports.

  • Improved Analysis - When reports are automatically generated, you can analyse data more frequently and gain better insight to enhance your business practices.

  • Prioritise Time/Increase Resources - Cut the noise surrounding report pulling and devote time and human resources to doing the jobs that only people can do - e.g. customer communication.

  • Improved Compliance - When reports are automatically generated and can be set up to be delivered to wherever they must go, compliance becomes easier and routine.

  • Multi-Faceted Use - Reports, data and actionable insights are no longer siloed or hard to spread around the organisation. Teams like sales, marketing, finance, customer service, manufacturing, HR, and customers can all reap the benefits

How To Start the Automation Process

There are many report automation tools in the marketplace that are designed to give you back your time. The difficulty isn’t in using a software, it’s in choosing what’s right for you.

Here’s how you can do it effectively:

1. Define Your Needs

  • What measurements or key performance indicators (KPIs) do you need to track?

  • How often do you need to send reports - daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually?

  • How many integrations are needed per report?

  • How many employees need access to the reports?

  • How much budget do you have to devote to the software?

  • How will you share your reports?

  • Who will be responsible for checking the reports are being used for their intended purpose?

  • Is the option to white label reports necessary?

  • How much customisation do you want?

2. Understand the Tools Available

Once you have your answers from step 1, you can decide how you want to make this report automation software come together. You have several options in making it a reality:

Code-it-Yourself System

This option is to build the system yourself.

Pros

  • Total control
  • Fully customisable
  • Perfectly built for your business’ needs

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Takes a fair amount of time  
  • Need a team to be devoted who can update and debug consistently

Data Processing Tools

This option consolidates and automates reporting via data processing, data management and analytics to provide your business with actionable insights and organised reporting.

Pros

  • Easy to create solution
  • Quick setup and install - no need to change systems
  • Relatively low cost solution
  • Flexible solution combining data processing, data management, workflow and analytics
  • Easy to use and understand
  • Increased accuracy and efficiency of information

Cons

  • Must have data tools already in place to collect the data
  • Need analysts to interpret data in the data processing tool

Business Intelligence (BI) Tools

This option gives you range to customise, and BI tools exist in the market, so they don’t have to be custom-built.

Pros

  • Complete and robust data analysis  
  • Customisable options

Cons

  • Can be hard for customers to use because highly analytical reporting system  
  • Takes time and training to understand how to use
  • Learning curve

Data Analytics Dashboard Tools

This option is less complicated than BI tools, but also offers less customisation.

Pros

  • Can be free
  • Slightly less complicated than BI tools
  • Wide variety of prices in the market

Cons

  • Less customisation
  • Not very user-friendly
  • Generally confined to pulling data from one source

Automated Reporting Tools

This option is designed for marketing analytics specifically.

Pros

  • Easy-to-Use
  • Multiple integrations
  • Customisable

Cons

  • May have limitations
  • Cost associated


Report Automation Benefits 

It’s clear to see why report automation would help your business perform better. By using an automation tool, you can free up your employees’ time to spend on what really matters - analysis and decision-making. 


With data insights displayed in an easy to interpret visual manner and up-to-date dashboards, your team can be prepared at any time of day to work effectively. The benefits of report automation means not only does it increase efficiency, but it also creates positive psychological effects on behalf of your employees who no longer have to be bogged down manually preparing reports and copy pasting data.This means that your team will be more fulfilled and employee retention can increase. It also frees up bottlenecks allowing staff to deliver more higher value deliverables within the organisation.


There are a multitude of other report automation benefits that vary by business, but overall, the option to save time and money, generate more accurate information, and improve compliance should be enough of a reason to get started. Furthermore, the multi-faceted use of automated reports and the transparency both internally and externally will aid in organisations being able to better serve both their employees and external stakeholders, from customers to investors to regulators. 


The Choice Is Yours

Once you define your needs and your budget, you can make the choice as to which is the right report automation software for your business and follow best practices to optimise its performance.

But Wait, There’s More: Using Dashboards

Along with report automation comes automated dashboards, or a centralised reporting platform. The dashboard displays KPIs and metrics in one location, which is typically accessed via a web browser.

Benefits of Dashboards

Dashboards can greatly assist your team by providing:

  • Constant updates reports that are in real-time and easily accessible  

  • Easy-to-read visual overviews of metrics

  • Automation that removes the need for humans to compile and organise information and;

  • Easy-to-grant access to various individuals within an organisation

How to Use Dashboards

1. Identify the need

Define the information and KPIs that you need to measure and ensure the dashboard can satisfy these requirements.

2. Verify data integrity

Ensure that data collection is accurate, simplify data to avoid long formulas, and automate data collection so that more time can be spent analysing data while also decreasing the chance for human error upon data entry.

3. Establish where this information is required within your workflow/organisation

Having data easily accessible is one thing, but you’ll need to create a process and actionable steps for using the data to make it worthwhile.

Ask questions like, “how will this information be communicated throughout the organisation?” and “who should be granted access to the dashboard?”.

Then, create roles in relation to your business goals to make the dashboards more useful. Be sure to communicate the use and purpose of these dashboards to the responsible parties.

Use Data Wisely

In an effort to save time and money (and thereby allocate resources wisely) data tools like report automation and dashboards can help your business function more efficiently. Once you can define your needs, you can find the right product that will help you and your employees be able to access, understand and share data and KPIs more effectively.

In turn, you will be better equipped to save money, optimise time, satisfy your customers’ needs, and analyse if current business practices and strategies are working.

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