20 essential reporting software features for your business
Last week we covered in detail the report types you need from your reporting software. Now it’s time to discuss the various features you should be looking for before you invest in a reporting system for your business.
Many small business owners make the mistake of not investing in their reporting software. It’s not difficult to see why so many come to this conclusion - manual reporting or reporting within an inadequate system can be time consuming and produce little in the way of insights.
But this doesn’t have to be the case. With the right software reporting should be easy, intelligent, and profitable for your business.
Features to look for in your reporting software
You may not require all of these features yet, but they’re definitely worth considering for the future if you’re not ready for them now. It’s also worth brainstorming with your business partner or staff to see which software features are essential for your business.
- Import data from Excel spreadsheets: Whether it’s your own historical data or a regular report that is sent from an external party, it’s important that your system allows you to upload Excel spreadsheets.
- Multiple data source integration: This is crucial if you want to blend data from various other sources, for example, your accounting software or inventory management system. All good reporting software should include this feature.
- Export data to Excel: Even if you don’t use Excel, you may have to provide data to a third party, so it’s important that your software will allow it. Check to make sure there are no restrictions on the information you can export.
- Export as PDF: This is useful if you prefer your reports in PDF format or have a client who does.
- Good variety of essential report types: Please check out our article from last week, the 26 report types you need from your reporting software.
- Custom reports: The ability to customise your reports using a selection of relevant parameters will help immensely.
- Customisable dashboard: This is a great feature for viewing your key metrics at a glance in an easy-to-digest format. Lots of colours and different types of graphs make it easier to see your data’s ‘big picture’.
- Real time data: You need to see things as they happen. A significant delay (i.e. more than a day) in data is not really acceptable anymore.
- Great graphs: Following on from the previous point, graphs are a great time saver and even the least mathematical member on your team will understand them. Make sure your data will be easy to read and not just another spreadsheet.
- Awesome filters: You don’t want to be messing around with data that isn’t important to you. Make sure you’ll be able to filter out the things you don’t need in your reports, so you can see the things you do need clearly.
- Search functionality: Don’t waste time trying to find the data you’re looking for. Your reporting software should have a good search feature so you can view it straight away.
- Embed graphs on company intranet: A nice-to-have if you share data on a company intranet.
Administration and usability
- Intuitive design: Your reporting software should be designed to make things easy for you. If you can’t figure out how to use all the features, it is probably not a good design and will end up costing you precious time.
- Report scheduling: Most businesses run multiple reports on a daily basis. It’s essential that you can automate this process and schedule all of your reports.
- Email reports: There will come a time when you have to email reports to people who don’t have access to your reporting system. For this reason, it should be easy to email straight from the program, rather than exporting the data. It is extra helpful if these emails can also be scheduled.
- Report design: Many programs now offer the ability to customise reports with your company logo to create a more professional look. If this is something that appeals to you, make sure it’s available.
- Multiple users: If your employees will be using this software, make sure there are no limits on the number of users.
- Assign different access levels: Keep certain information to yourself by assigning different access levels. You may also want to assign ‘read only’ access to some.
- Tech support: Check out the support options before you sign up. These can often be a hidden cost and should really be free if you’re paying a decent amount for the software.
- Free trial or demo: It’s important that your provider offers the chance to try before you buy. Make sure you and your employees are comfortable using the system. If not, it could end up wasting a lot of time.
What is your ‘must have’ reporting feature?