To Automate or Not to Automate? That Is the Question….
Through recent prospect conversations I’ve had, it was suggested to me that report automation is just for the ‘big boys’ of market research i.e the large global research agencies – is that a true evaluation? Russ Budden, E-Tabs Client Consultant discusses…
It’s fair to say that agencies who run large scale projects and produce collectively hundreds of reports each day would (and do) benefit from report automation solutions. However it would be unfair to say that the idea of report automation is exclusively for them and it is a universal desire for all research agencies and consultancies regardless of size to produce their reports more efficiently.
Improving the efficiency of the reporting process not only shortens turnaround time but improves the accuracy of a report and allows the agency to provide ‘added value’ to their client – whether it be extra reporting capabilities (i.e. increased frequency of reporting) or allowing the agency to do more with the data – spending more time discovering the insights and less time creating them.
Indeed, I spent many late nights as an exec, manually populating and updating charts in reports. With any manual process, not only is there the very real possibility of human errors creeping in, it was also extremely labour intensive and tedious creating the same report over and over again. I taught myself macros in a vain attempt to make the process easier, but they had to keep being re-developed for new projects and new waves of data within an existing project. In fact, I would predict that many times it actually took longer working out where I went wrong in the macro, than actually manually entering the new data!
With all sizes of agencies trying to find process efficiencies in addition to ever-decreasing client budgets, the need to think smartly about how best to utilise their workforce is key. Having an exec sitting in front of PowerPoint, putting together a 40-slide report every month could take a day or two each month. Across the year, that exec could easily be spending at least a month a year producing that report. That report could be automated meaning that time spent could be reallocated into uncovering some key insights within the project, or spending more time impressing the client by finding out why something has happened, not just showing it’s happening.
In many cases when I’m discussing the merits of report automation with a prospect, it is usually countered by their concerns about their existing internal processes – ‘We don’t do it that way?’ ‘We’ve always produced our data tables this way?’ etc. Although a process might have always been performed historically a certain way, does that mean that the process is the most efficient way? We’ve seen our clients who use our automated reporting solutions improve the efficiency of their reporting – whether it’s done by themselves using our software or whether it’s run by us on their behalf. Perhaps it might be time to assess whether your current reporting processes are as efficient as they could be? I’d be more than happy to chat to you about them and see how we can improve them together.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Russ has two pet hates – manually creating research reports … and his football team losing. He advises insight teams and agencies around the world on improving their reporting efficiency – but sadly can’t do much about his team losing!
If you would like to talk with Russ about any charting, reporting or data visualization project you have, his email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you can fill out the form below and he will be in touch.