How to cut your month-end reporting time in half (it is possible!)

How to cut your month end reporting time in half!

The following month always comes around too quickly, and suddenly, you’re back in the same position, asking yourself the same old questions.  Where did you get that particular data from again? Why are there suddenly broken links in that file? How are you going to get Susan’s numbers while she’s on leave?

On top of all of this, you need to extract data from your ERP, again.

So, you have to talk to IT, again.

And they have to produce custom reports, again.

Which means joining the end of their ‘to do’ list… again!

For too many businesses, month-end reporting is a painful, complex and time consuming process. 90% of businesses say they suffer from month-end anxiety, and three out of every four reckon they spend more than five days on reporting every single month.

That’s nearly a quarter of a year spent on just reporting!


WHAT’S THE BIG PROBLEM WITH MONTH- END REPORTING?

For most business, the problem with month-end reporting is quite simple: a lack of consistent, easily accessible, compatible data.

Rather than being able to extract data from a single source, quickly and easily, those poor souls responsible for reporting are forced to spend days manually extracting, cross-referencing and reconciling information, time and time again.

Typically, this involves several drawn-out steps:

  • Extract monthly report data from financials systems and other sources
  • Import data into Excel
  • Modify and merge the data to align
  • Add calculations, summary tables and pivot tables
  • Merge information into a final reporting worksheet
  • Format worksheets
  • Check, check and check again

As well as being labour intensive, the whole process is also prone to error and lacks consistency.

Surely there’s a better way?

If only you could cut your month-end reporting time in half!


INTRODUCING… ETL TOOLS

ETL tools automate the process of extracting data from all sorts of data sources and consolidate them in to a format and structure that suits your needs.  ETL stands for:

  • Extract – retrieve data from a database, flat file or other data source.
  • Transform – modify or convert the extracted data into the required format (nothing happens to the original data)
  • Load – load the transformed data into the target database or data repository

There are some great ETL tools on the market that are incredibly versatile and very easy to use.  These tools can automate almost any type of data processes you perform manually, enabling you to extract data out of various systems, transform it into the shape you need, and then load it into whichever database or Excel spreadsheet or other reporting format you prefer to use.  


TODAY’S ETL TOOLS: SIMPLE AND EASY TO USE

Modern ETL tools are all about drag and drop or point and click.

These tools also connect to virtually any data source you can find, including Excel, databases, cloud data sources and even non-structured data sources.

A lot of ETLs are desktop tools or cloud-based, and are so intuitive that don’t need to have a PhD in Computer Science to use them.  Anyone can understand the processes that are being performed.  And they let you save and share processes with co-workers which helps alleviate problems of process knowledge being stuck inside an individual’s head.

The best thing of all is that when you open next month’s report, everything will be ready to go and the updating process will be nice and simple.

So, what are you waiting for?  Supercharge your team, cut your month-end reporting time in half by investing in an ETL.


WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN AN ETL

If you’re evaluating ETL solution, it’s important to prioritise these core functions and inclusions:

  • The ability to connect to, and extract data from, your data sources
  • User friendly environment that supports drag and drop
  • Collaborative development capabilities for integration
  • Basic data transformation functions, such as data type conversion, date reformatting and string handling
  • Data profiling software that can analyse source data for consistency, dependencies, etc.
  • Data quality and cleansing functionality for identifying and fixing errors in data sets, plus data synchronisation for keeping data consistent in source and target systems.
  • Metadata management support for synchronising integration processes and documenting data transformation and business rules.
  • Job scheduling and process management controls, including monitoring and error handling and logging.

READY TO TAKE AN ETL TEST DRIVE?

There are quite a few very good free ETL tools on the market.  This gives you the chance to test drive a few and experience the benefits without making a significant financial commitment.

Here are 3 free options which are also pretty easy to use:

Talend

  • Open studio
  • On premise
  • Connects to almost any data source
  • Requires some coding knowledge
  • Has a commercial option

Microsoft Power BI

  • Desktop application
  • No coding knowledge needed
  • Windows operating system only
  • Connects to most data sources
  • Has a commercial option

Rapid Miner

  • Available as cloud or on premise
  • Connects to almost any data source
  • No coding knowledge needed
  • Has a commercial option

Here are 3 commercial options which will get you started quickly:

 Alteryx

  • On-premise installation
  • Connects to almost any data source
  • No coding knowledge needed
  • Comes with a free trial
  • Pricing starts at $5,000/license

  Informatica

  • On premise installation
  • Connects to almost any data source
  • No coding knowledge needed
  • Comes with a free trial
  • Pricing starts at $8,000/license

 Syncsort

  • Connects to almost any data source
  • Specialises in Big Data distributed platforms
  • No coding knowledge needed
  • Comes with a free trial

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