Reporting v Business Intelligence 

It’s important to make the distinction between traditional reporting and intelligence; although in common usage the two terms are often interchangeable, in practice they mean very different things.

Traditional business reporting typically involves creating formatted output on a regular periodic basis, generally consisting of lists- employees, departments, location, headcount, sickness and so on, grouped and summarised but essentially static.

Because the list looks the same every week or every month, reports are not immediately useful unless further analysis is performed- raw data are often dumped into spreadsheets to enable manipulation through pivot tables and charts to turn data into useful information.

However if new queries or reports are needed it usually requires IT involvement, leader to user frustration and higher costs.

Traditional approaches to reporting have several disadvantages 

  • They provide only a rear view mirror perspective on what has happened (who has left, who has joined, who attended a training course etc) but they lack the ability to predict and forecast
  • Heavily reliant on spreadsheets, on clumsy solutions to storing and managing data. These are often updated in-frequently, filled with errors, inaccuracies and not always understood by other users. If the spreadsheet owner leaves, they often take the secret of the spreadsheet with them (not just the password) Many organisations lack the technical and data analysis skills to get the best from tools and software that are available to support a more sophisticated type of business intelligence.
  • Reports often use pre-defined, static formats that are difficult to change. In many cases, they were originally designed to meet the requirements of a previous HR structure with simpler needs.

As a result, many organisations are moving towards an approach based on Business Intelligence rather than traditional business reporting.  One key feature of HR ready organisations is their focus on using data to drive their HR and business strategies; quite simply, Business intelligence is a key pillar in supporting HR ready organisation.

Good Business intelligence reveals not only how well the HR function is delivering its services, but also how successful the organisation is managing its investment in People. 

What differentiates traditional business reporting from true business intelligence is the “intelligence” part- it refers to the ability to provide insight, revealing patterns, trends and exceptions as the basis for action.

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Business intelligence also provides an indication as to future trends- it’s the ‘what if’ part sometimes known as the predictive analytics. With the ever growing skills gap, new gender pay legislation, impact of Brexit and the growing diverse workforce; it has never been more important to discover why analytics should be driving your strategic HR decisions.

To be able to take on a more strategic role in the business, HR needs to make better use of this data, drawing on unified systems and simplified processes.

Business Intelligence; Are you HR Ready? 

  • Is your Business Intelligence clear?
  • How long would it take you to analyse key measures such as turnover, absence, retention and training costs
  • What does your business intelligence tell you about the success of HR initiatives?
  • Do Managers objectives align with the content of the reports they receive
  • Does your senior leadership team set and demand specific data
  • Is there a demand for mobile analytics?

If HR is to remain relevant, influence the agenda, and help drive key decisions around people and broader business strategy, it simply cannot afford to ignore the need for effective business intelligence that can combine people-related data with that available in other parts of the business.