Shift to the Next Level of Business Reporting with Report Scheduling
How much time would it take to create a monthly sales report? If you do this regularly, you will already know how to do this well, and can probably complete the task within an hour or less depending on the volume of data you process and the report’s complexity. In total, you would spend around one working day a year doing this manual job. And if you handle multiple reports, the amount of time expense adds up steadily. So, it makes sense to automate the process of creating reports at a frequency you want.
Report scheduling is meant to assist you with this so you can completely forgo manual data entry and report generation. In this guide, you will find answers to the questions related to report scheduling including the benefits it provides, how you can implement it, and what tools you can use.
What is report scheduling?
Report scheduling is a process of automating data flow to generate or refresh a report at a specified frequency.
For example, you may have a sales funnel report, which needs to be updated every day from Monday to Saturday. The report is created in Google Sheets and is based on the data taken from a CRM app, such as HubSpot. So, report scheduling will include the connection of HubSpot and Google Sheets to automate the data flow at the needed frequency. As a result, the data in your funnel report will be refreshed according to this schedule, and the report will be up to date.
Report scheduling vs. triggering
Both triggering and scheduling allow you to automate reporting. However, report scheduling is a time-based automation, while report triggering is an event-based automation. It’s important to differentiate between these terms to understand which option your project needs.
Report scheduling is the automation based on the specified time and frequency, such as every hour, every Monday, etc.
Report triggering is the automation based on a specific event or condition, such as a new deal closed, the total number of sales exceeding $10,000, etc.
In this article, we’re only focusing on scheduling reports, including benefits, types, best practices, tools, and other valuable things. And we begin with defining the value of report scheduling for businesses.
What benefits can automated report scheduling offer to businesses
The main benefit of any automation is to increase productivity and efficiency. When you automate something, this means you spend less time doing this manually. The same applies to reporting automation. When you schedule reports, you won’t have to manually refresh the data in your reports. As a result, a time-consuming and probably complex task turns into an automated process that may just require some occasional supervision.
Saving time is not the only benefit you get when you schedule reports. The efficiency of dynamic reporting is also improved by reducing errors and streamlining data-driven decision-making, which has become an essential aspect of business growth. Below, you can find some other important benefits that report scheduling provides:
- Continuity is a crucial aspect when it comes to reporting since scheduling reports enable you to maintain the continuity of your reporting process. By scheduling reports, you can turn a one-time report into an ongoing one, ensuring that the report is automatically updated at regular intervals. This eliminates the need to create the same report repeatedly or manually update the data.
- Time management, once you set up the time frame and interval for your report schedule, you won’t have to upload new reports or worry about manually inputting any information. Due to this, you will be able to focus on other aspects that are critical to your business, thus freeing up your valuable time and resources.
- Improved data management, through constant updates that allow you to have up-to-date data, report scheduling allows you to fully optimize your data management.
This, in turn, enables you to have access to the latest information and ensures accuracy as well as reliability.
- Data integration, one great aspect of report scheduling is the ability to automatically integrate data from various sources. In this regard, often you will have a list of sources from which the data is coming. By integrating data from multiple sources, you can generate comprehensive reports that provide a holistic view of all business operations.
- Scalability, report scheduling tools and solutions are capable of handling large amounts of data, which makes it easier for your business to manage and analyze large data sets. If your organization has growing data needs, then report scheduling can definitely simplify this process.
Report scheduling is useful for businesses to regularly monitor and share reports on sales, financial performance, website traffic, and many more. So, whether we are talking about sales, marketing, or financial reporting, scheduling it will let you concentrate on more vital business tasks such as gaining insights into their performance, identifying trends, and making data-driven decisions.
There are many examples of how automated report scheduling is driving business success. Within the sphere of marketing, report scheduling helps in tracking the performance of social media campaigns. For instance, by scheduling daily or weekly reporting that provides real-time insights into engagement rates, click-through rates, and conversion rates, a marketing agency can identify the most effective tactics and strategies. By doing so, the marketing firm can adjust its campaigns if needed in order to maximize impact and improve results.
For an e-commerce business, weekly report scheduling can be useful in terms of tracking inventory levels, sales performance, and shipping metrics. By scheduling weekly reports that provide insights into metrics such as sales volume, customer satisfaction ratings, and shipping times, the company can identify areas for improvement and adjust its operations accordingly. This can greatly improve the business’ efficiency as well as profitability.
For a SaaS company, daily reports can help track real-time user engagement and subscription metrics. Scheduling daily reports that provide real-time insights into metrics such as user activity, subscription, churn rates, and feature usage, the firm can adjust its product roadmap along with marketing strategies to improve user engagement and retention.
In essence, through report scheduling, businesses can save time and ensure that reports are generated and distributed in an organized and timely manner. This, in turn, allows organizations to make informed decisions that are based on real-time data and adjust their strategies as needed.
What types of reports you can schedule
Basically, all report types can be scheduled. The more important thing is whether you need to schedule a custom or default report.
Default reports are mostly those provided within the software. Such preset reports are available in accounting tools, CRM apps, and other software solutions you use. In addition, these apps may have a built-in report scheduling feature. So, you get the automated report generation and scheduling out-of-the-box. However, in this case, you’re limited to the report design and functionality provided in the software. If you want to go beyond this, then you should opt for building a custom report.
Custom reports are bespoke reports, i.e., they are built considering your requirements to design, data source, and scheduling. With custom reporting, you may not limit yourself to one data source and have multiple information sources combined within one scheduled report. For example, here is a marketing report on ad performance that accumulates information from Facebook Ads, Google Ads, and LinkedIn Ads.
It’s built by data experts from Coupler.io and scheduled to be refreshed every 15 minutes! However, we’re going to talk about the tools for report scheduling a bit later. Now, let’s take a look at some of the different types of reports.
- Financial reports – you can schedule reporting on the financial performance of your business, such as profit and loss, balance sheets, income statements, etc.
- Sales reports – you can schedule reports on sales performance, sales funnel, sales team productivity, etc.
- Marketing reports – you can schedule omnichannel reporting on different channels and their efficiency including lead generation, website traffic, ads performance, etc.
- Operations reports – you can schedule reports that display operational metrics, including production volumes, supply chain performance, etc.
- HR reports – you can schedule reports on HR performance, including HR funnel, retention stats, employee turnover rates, etc.
- Project management reports – you can schedule project management reports to monitor multiple metrics such as project status, budget, timeline, resource allocation, etc.
How you can schedule reports
As we mentioned above, some software offers built-in functionality to automate reporting. For example, QuickBooks Online provides a scheduling feature to send an email with a chosen report to a specific email address, at a chosen interval. In this case, report scheduling is implemented as a feature.
However, if you do custom reporting using a spreadsheet app or a sophisticated data visualization tool, then you’ll need a solution to connect your report to a data source. As a result of such a connection, you get an automated data flow from a source app to your custom report at a specific frequency. Here are the options you may consider to do the job.
ETL tools automate the data flow from one place to another via the following stages:
- Extract data from a source or different sources
- Transform the data to a required format
- Load the data into a report
The common ETL tools for businesses are Coupler.io, Skyvia, Dataddo, etc. For example, here is what the report scheduling flow looks like in the ETL tool by Coupler.io:
Coupler.io is a data automation and analytics platform that provides an ETL tool for report scheduling. It allows you to connect multiple apps to Google Sheets, Excel, BigQuery, and Looker Studio without any coding, and schedule data refresh at a frequency of up to every 15 minutes.
- Sign up to Coupler.io, click Add a new importer, and specify where you want to get data from and where to load it. For example, you can choose Facebook ads as a data source and Looker Studio as a data destination.
- Then you’ll need to configure the source connection, i.e. connect to your Facebook Ads account and specify the data you want to export. After that, proceed to configure the destination part and specify where to load your data.
- The final step is to actually schedule the automatic data refresh. You need to toggle on this option and configure the schedule, namely:
- Interval – from every month to every 15 minutes
- Days of the week – select the desired days of the week for automated data exports
- Time preferences – select the one-hour frame for the export to take place
- Schedule time zone – choose the preferred time zone for your schedule
We can’t claim that all ETL tools provide such a convenient and user-friendly interface to schedule report refresh, but in most cases, the logic will be the same.
BI and data visualization tools
Most custom reports are created in data visualization or business intelligence tools such as Looker Studio, Tableau, or Power BI. Some of these do provide scheduling as a feature so you can automate data refresh of your reports and dashboards on a schedule. But not all of them allow you to customize the frequency of the report schedule.
It depends on the BI tool you use since not all have this functionality implemented in the way you need. For example, Looker Studio automatically updates data every 12 hours, and you can customize this schedule. With Tableau and Power BI, things are more complicated since they provide different connection options. For a report at Tableau Server, you can select a refresh schedule for published extract data sources and published workbooks that connect to extracts.
If the provided scheduling options are not enough, you can always benefit from an ETL tool that will automatically update data from your report in the desired BI tool. For example, the following report on ads campaign performance designed in Looker Studio is scheduled with the help of Coupler.io.
Let’s say you want to update your report every 23 minutes 🙂 Most ETL tools have a preset schedule like every hour, every 30, or 15 minutes. But you only need a 23-minute frequency for your report schedule. In this case, the only option you’ve got is to code a custom report scheduling solution yourself. This can be done in Python or another programming language with the help of REST APIs of your source and destination apps.
Things to consider when you schedule a report
Whichever option to schedule reports you go with, there are several important factors to consider:
Report scheduling frequency: Choosing report scheduling intervals should be determined by the specific needs of the business. For some, daily reports might be necessary to monitor real-time metrics, while for others, weekly or monthly reports that track performance are sufficient. While tracking inventory levels can be scheduled every week, website-related report scheduling should rather be updated daily.
Regular supervision of scheduled reports: Even the most reliable report scheduling solution needs to be checked on a regular basis. If you have a daily report refresh automated, it’s okay to check the status of your data once a week. For more frequent updates, ensure to make your data check-ups more often.
A very useful feature here is a notification that you will receive in case of an unsuccessful run of your automated refresh. Such alerts will let you know about a failure right away, so you’ll be able to fix it without hindering the overall operation.
Is report scheduling needed for my business?
Report scheduling is useful for any type of business, be it a small ecommerce shop or a large SaaS company that runs hundreds of versatile reports. The area where you can benefit from scheduling reports is not limited to financial, sales, or marketing. Basically, every activity associated with reporting and analytics can be optimized with the help of automation and scheduling.
As we’ve already mentioned several times above, reporting plays a big part in decision-making at all levels, from day-to-day operations to overall strategic direction. In this instance, improving data accuracy, and integrity as well as having real-time insights should be at the heart of every large business.Back to Blog