NASA started using computers to calculate orbital paths in 1962. However, John Glenn, a respected pilot from World War II, wasn’t quite sure that he trusted the computer’s numbers. After all, he was trying to become the first American to orbit the Earth. Glenn refused to start the mission until Katherine Johnson, NASA’s preeminent statistician and orbital analyst, could conduct an ad hoc analysis and confirm the numbers. With renewed confidence, Glenn set out on his mission and made history.
Your reporting needs may not be as high stakes as John Glenn’s, but imagine the following scenario. You are a business analyst at a large company that produces cleaning chemicals. The marketing department wants to develop the sales materials, so they ask what types and how much product should be promoted. Should the marketing and sales teams promote 2,500-gallon orders of lemon-scented bathroom cleaner? Or 5,000 gallons of window cleaner? How about 7,500 gallons of floor wax?
To answer this question, you need to understand how sales volume correlates with profit. Common sense tells you that the more product you sell, the more money you make. But you know there is a point at which additional volume produces a diminishing return for the bottom line, especially when you factor in discounts and the costs of transportation and storage. If your marketing materials cause customers to buy too much product too quickly, you may not be optimizing your full profit potential.
Since you are really looking for the answer to a specific scenario, your approach would not center around the development of a dynamic dashboard. Instead, you need a robust ad hoc reporting capability with three equally important parts: the ability to repeatedly query the database, test the results, and communicate findings quickly to marketing.
Query, Test, and Communicate
First off, business and reporting analysts need to be able to query the database or multiple databases and/or data sources in an iterative fashion to gather all the required data. Regardless of their querying tool, they will undoubtedly try a few different methods for pulling the right data. In this example alone, they would need to know the contents of each order, the sale price, relevant discounts, transportation and storing costs, dates, locations, sales teams, and buyers.
They will then review the results and see if there is anything surprising. They might ask a clarifying question. Should they breakdown the profit margin by time of year or by product line? Even the most accurate business intelligence insights might go wasted if they don’t tell a compelling story. Once they have an answer, they must effectively communicate their results back to the marketing team in an easily understood way. A simple data visualization showing profit margins correlated to volume would do very well in this situation.
If you can imagine yourself needing answers to these types of questions, then consider partnering with ORBIT Analytics. We offer ad hoc reporting capabilities for every data source your company currently utilizes, while offering forward looking functionality that will keep your organization abreast of future reporting trends. Whether you are just getting started in creating an analytics function, or if you already possess a strong business intelligence team, contact ORBIT today to see how we can help enhance the business value of your ad hoc reporting efforts.