How to cut your month-end reporting time in half (it is possible!)

How to cut your month-end reporting

We all know the feeling of dread that can accompany month-end reporting.  There’s that last minute panic to get everything done and the stress of having to source and reconcile the right data.  Then the constant vowing – every month – that you’ll be far more organised next time. Once the dust has settled, you’re left wondering how on earth you can cut your month-end reporting time in half.

The following month always comes around too quickly, and suddenly, you’re back in the same position, asking yourself the same old questions.  Where did you get that particular data from again?  Why are there suddenly broken links in that file?  How are you going to get Susan’s numbers while she’s on leave?

On top of all of this, you need to extract data from your ERP, again.

So, you have to talk to IT, again.

And they have to produce custom reports, again.

Which means joining the end of their ‘to do’ list… again!

For too many businesses, month-end reporting is a painful, complex, and therefore time consuming process.  It should be noted that 90% of businesses say they suffer from month-end anxiety.  Apart from this, three out of every four businesses reckon they spend more than five days on reporting every single month.

That’s nearly a quarter of a year spent on just reporting!

What’s the big problem with month-end reporting?

For most businesses, the problem with month-end reporting is quite simple.  There is a lack of consistent, easily accessible, compatible data.

Rather than being able to extract data from a single source, quickly and easily, those poor souls responsible for reporting are forced to spend days manually extracting data.  As well as, cross-referencing, and reconciling information, time, and time again.

Typically, this involves several drawn-out steps:

  • Extract monthly report data from financial systems and other sources
  • Import data into Excel
  • Modify and merge the data to align
  • Add calculations, summary tables, and pivot tables
  • Merge information into a final reporting worksheet
  • Format worksheets
  • Check, check and check again

As well as being labour intensive, the whole process is also prone to error and lacks consistency.

Surely there’s a better way?

If only you could cut your month-end reporting time in half!

Introducing… ETL tools

ETL tools automate the process of extracting data from all sorts of data sources.  In addition to this, consolidate them into a format and structure that suits your needs.  It stands for:

  • Extract – retrieve data from a database, flat file, or other data source.
  • Transform – modify or convert the extracted data into the required format (nothing happens to the original data)
  • Load – load the transformed data into the target database or data repository

Some great ETL tools on the market are incredibly versatile and also very easy to use.  These tools can automate almost any type of data processes you perform manually.  Similarly, it enables you to extract data out of various systems and transform it into the shape you need.  As well as load it into whichever database or Excel spreadsheet or other reporting formats you prefer to use.

Today’s ETL tools: simple and easy to use

Modern ETL tools are all about drag and drop or point and click.

These tools also connect to virtually any data source you can find, including Excel, databases, cloud data sources, and even non-structured data sources.

A lot of ETLs are desktop tools or cloud-based and are so intuitive that you don’t need to have a PhD in Computer Science to use them. Anyone can understand the processes that are being performed.  Furthermore, they let you save and share processes with co-workers.  This, therefore, helps alleviate problems of process knowledge being stuck inside an individual’s head.

The best thing of all is when you open next month’s report, everything will be ready to go, and the updating process will be nice and simple.

So, what are you waiting for? Supercharge your team, cut your month-end reporting time in half by investing in an ETL.

What to look for in an ETL

If you’re evaluating ETL solutions, it’s important to prioritise these core functions and inclusions:

  • The ability to connect to, and extract data from, your data sources
  • User friendly environment that supports drag and drop
  • Collaborative development capabilities for integration
  • Basic data transformation functions, such as data type conversion, date reformatting, and string handling
  • Data profiling software that can analyse source data for consistency, dependencies, etc.
  • Data quality and cleansing functionality for identifying and fixing errors in data sets, plus data synchronisation for keeping data consistent in source and target systems.
  • Metadata management support for synchronising integration processes and documenting data transformation and business rules.
  • Job scheduling and process management controls, including monitoring and error handling and logging.

Ready to take an ETL test drive?

There are quite a few very good free ETL tools on the market.  This also gives you the chance to test drive a few and experience the benefits without making a significant financial commitment.

Here are 3 free options which are also pretty easy to use:

 Talend  Microsoft Power BI  Rapid Miner
Open studio
On premise
Connects to almost any data source
Requires some coding knowledge
Has a commercial option
Desktop application
No coding knowledge needed
Windows operating system only
Connects to most data sources
Has a commercial option
Available as cloud or on premise
Connects to almost any data source
No coding knowledge needed
Has a commercial option

Here are 3 commercial options which will get you started quickly:

 Alteryx  Informatica  Syncsort
On-premise installation
Connects to almost any data source
No coding knowledge needed
Comes with a free trial
Pricing starts at $5,000/license
On premise installation
Connects to almost any data source
No coding knowledge needed
Comes with a free trial
Pricing starts at $8,000/license
Connects to almost any data source
Specialises in Big Data distributed platforms
No coding knowledge needed
Comes with a free trial