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The importance of usability in web-based reporting

Web-based reporting is likely at the forefront of many organizations' business intelligence and analytics strategies. It's important during the development process to ensure that users will be able to acclimate easily to new reporting designer tools and can draw desired results with little learning curve. While advances in programming made with leaps in WPF and HTML Development, for example, offer more opportunities than ever to program high-performing and aesthetically pleasing applications, the sheer number of features available in diverse programming sets can lead to more complexity introduced into the web-based reporting environment.

Highly tailored business intelligence and analytics solutions can actually end up creating more problems than they alleviate, according to a new study by Nucleus Research. In its recently released H2 Technology Value Matrix for Business Intelligence, over-specialization can actually drive complexity and lower overall return on investment. Ultimately, the benchmark for the success of a web-based reporting tool is its ease of use by management personnel and employees with a lack of training in formal analysis. It's important to deliver the most agile application by trimming off the fat of extraneous features and perhaps working with end users to see where potential problems can be alleviated before the program enters full deployment.

"As the previously monolithic world of BI fragments, the now varied world of analytic applications has vendors pursuing best-of-breed solutions for narrow markets," stated Nucleus Research principal analyst Nina Sandy. "As they carve out their niches, we see a growing need for solutions that are smarter, more intuitive and easier-to-use. In 2014, usability becomes a clear differentiator with the ability

Web-based reporting must be optimized for mobile use
Another factor that can fell a report designer tool is poor performance in mobile environments. The Nucleus Research study found that many organizations that experienced issues with complexity did so because mobile users had trouble retaining the capabilities offered on higher-capacity workstations on their mobile devices. Organizations in all sectors are increasingly trending mobile, and 2014 is likely to be a make-or-break year for many companies in competitive spheres that rely on mobile technology. Mobile business intelligence increasingly allows employees to have access to key data applications and analysis, enabling them to work more outside the office or on the go. This can improve communication and collaboration in many enterprise environments.

Additionally, real-time decision making within web-based reporting allows companies to make faster decisions as whole, wrote MSDynamicsWorld contributor Peter Orum. Reports that can be shared and edited by multiple contributors simultaneously foster better information awareness and ensure that duplicate reports or conflicting information do not hamper actionable insights.

"With traditional report generation, in which individual users manipulate data differently for their own purposes, it becomes challenging to maintain a consistent shared world view across the company," Orum wrote. "This risk is especially apparent when those reports are generated in Excel and manipulations live only in an individual's own files. These might then be shared through paper reports, word of mouth, emails, or via the company network, causing further fragmentation and loss of control of data consistency."


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