In our modern enterprises, more and more we make our key business decisions strictly based on numbers and facts. And of course, we have lots of them: on our operations, our customers, our competitors, indeed on this big wide world that surrounds us. But how to distill all that big data into insights that can give proper guidance to our decision-making and actions?
Modern technology can help. But to understand how, let us first look at one example that gives us an idea of the real-life challenges we are facing in the field of sales.
Reporting is time-consuming
Terri is working in a manufacturing business as the head of a sales team. Like most salespeople, her team always hate having to find the time to compile their monthly reports, which, however, are paramount to both Terri and her managers in keeping track of where the business is going.
Rather than producing their reports, the salespeople in her team would prefer to just forget about them and concentrate on making sales happen and reaching their quotas. And why not? After all, putting together a report is hard work: you flick between the report document and the Salesforce screen, account by account, opportunity by opportunity, and copy across information, annotating each section with thoughts and observations.
It takes time. In Terri’s team, collecting data on ONE account takes 30 man-hours – the best part of a whole working week. That time feels irritatingly wasted for the salespeople – especially if sales are not going that well when submitting that report will potentially just to add to their worries.
Combining the reports – what a headache
Worse still, we all have our own way to organize and present information. In practice this means that in Terri’s team, all sales reps submit their reports in a slightly different fashion – sections may come in a different order or with different titles and a different level of detail, depending on who wrote the report.
Thus, it takes hours and hours for Terri, too, to get a concise view of what is going on and producing the insights that really matter – while there still is the lingering suspicion that something vital just went unnoticed, affecting perhaps fatally the decisions to be made.
Bad decisions from bad insights
Terri’s case is quite common to many a line manager and gives a good idea of the challenges we are facing when trying to distill, as they say, actionable insights out of all the data we have. It is a twofold one: first, the sales reps have to distill and interpret their own data into account-specific insights. After that, Terri will squeeze it all into an overall view.
Along the way, misinterpretations pose a serious risk. So do manual mistakes. Both may end up showing as serious flaws in the reports. And if the insights are not right, then probably neither will be the actions taken based on them.
Can errors be automated out?
So it turns out that reports are a thing many of us need badly, but none of us really wants to spend time creating, so why not try automation?
Indeed, today’s CRMs like Salesforce already provide good basic automated reporting capabilities as a platform feature. However, when it comes to reports that can quickly provide targeted insights by collecting, combining and filtering data from all over the CRM and doing customized calculations, more advanced capabilities are often required. These can be added to the CRM through coding, but it tends to be very laborious in the first place and also when updates and maintenance are needed in the future.
Why not try a document automation app from AppExchange?
Perhaps surprisingly, advanced capabilities for creating custom reports are offered by document automation applications. Not only are they capable of accessing every record in the CRM and easily programmable to make calculations of their own. They also allow presenting all that data clearly and with a nice layout – also when printed on paper.
Our Documill Dynamo is one such application. If you are a Salesforce user, why not take a look at one sample report we have created with a team like Terri’s in mind to see its advanced capabilities? In fact, this reporting solution can be deployed in Salesforce to a whole sales team in half an hour!