5 Reasons Custom Reporting Hurts Data Intelligence

Christmas 2011 came and went, and billions of dollars were spent to get friends and loved ones exactly what they wanted. Well, in theory. These days gift returns are so common that 37% of retailers have to ease up on their return policies to avoid the wrath of thousands of customers who want to exchange a Kindle for a Nook, or vice versa. So what do many gift-givers do to avoid this?

The gift card, of course. Now the choice is up to the gift-receiver, cutting down the rate of returns, and gift-giver rests easy knowing that the ultimate satisfaction of the gift is no longer in his/her hands.

But everyone agrees that gift cards are fairly lame gifts, right?

Custom reports are like gift cards in this way. In theory, they are great because they give you a ton of options. You pick and choose what you want to see, how you want to see it, and when. But in practice, they are often paralyzingly complicated and can ultimately hinder your data intelligence. Here are five reasons why that is:

1. You are not on the same page

Consider this scenario:

Joe comes into a meeting at ACME Staffing Agency and says “we did 50 interviews this week.” John looks at his reports. “No, we only did 35.”

The numbers don’t match up. What’s the deal? Time to spend the next hour troubleshooting and figuring out where the discrepancy came from. This tends to happen quite a bit when reports are too customizable and leads to inefficiency when analyzing the data.

With a unified reporting system, you would never run into these situations where you had contradicting data. In this case, Joe was looking at interviews scheduled while John was looking at interviews conducted.

2. You track the wrong metrics

Leading from the previous point, you could be tracking the wrong metricsaltogether. The reason is simple: we like graphs that go up.

Graph going up

Looks great right? Unless it’s college debt.


So if Frank has a smorgasbord of metrics he can add to his dashboard, he’ll have a tendency to look at the metrics that put his performance in the best light and make his graphs go up.

A perfect example is when viewing the value of a job. “Hey, I made a staffing placement with 65% spread!” Congrats, it was only a 3 hour job. It’s worth $2. “Oh look, my recent placement bills at $250 per hour!” Good stuff, but if the pay is $249, who cares.

Don’t let you or your employees pick and choose their metrics. Standardize the KPIs and hold everyone similarly accountable.

3. You miss out on industry best practices

What metrics can you monitor with customizable reporting? A ton of them. What metrics should you monitor? Well, that’s a different story. Not every metric is worth your time, for example, the number of emails sent.

An ideal uniform report will give you access to the KPIs of your industry, not only chosen by experts in the field, but from the collective feedback and experiences of all the users of this reporting system.

(Bonus points to us for not rehashing the Apple vs Android arguments you see all over the web lately)

4. You take too long

Choosing relevant metrics, customizing your dashboard and reports, conducting a meeting just because Bob “ran an interesting report” that no one else did. All this takes up time, and especially for small businesses, this is time you probably don’t have.

With customized reporting, a new employee at your company will take time to get up to speed. With a uniform report, she’s ready to go from day one; and not just her but your entire company. Bonus? Not stalling due to the dearth of options.

5. You don’t get great service

The service at a buffet is different from a service restaurant. Likewise, it’s just hard to cater to a hundred different clients’ needs rather than just to one.

Bad Customer Service

Is it bad that iStockphoto mostly has blondes for this specific type of picture?


Iterations of a reporting system with a lot of custom components are slow to cycle. That one custom plug-in that your company depends on? You’re the only one who uses it and it’s low on the list of the engineers’ priorities. You need help with your custom dashboard? Might be tough for the service rep to assist when they’ve never seen that configuration before.

Having a standard reporting system across all clients allows for extremely good support. Why do you think the Apple Genius Bar is such a hit?

(Ok, take away our bonus points)