The Impact of Report Sprawl on Your Organization

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Report sprawl has become a prevalent concern for organizations in the age of self-service business intelligence. Because of the simplicity with which reports may be created, published, modified, and shared, it is not uncommon for an organization to have hundreds or even thousands of reports floating around.

While reports are critical for managing operations, with report sprawl, the challenge is that the volume of reports spread across the organization becomes difficult to manage and creates a level of reporting chaos. As ZenOptics CEO Saurbh Khera said in a recent Forbes article, “[report sprawl has] become unwieldy for many companies with massive amounts of data, dozens of tools and reporting applications, even spreadsheets—and with so many parts of the organization accessing reports.”

This blog post highlights the effects of report sprawl and shares how an analytics hub can help.

Impact #1: Decreased Efficiency

When an organization is overwhelmed with reports, it can be difficult for employees to find the information they need. This causes them to spend their precious time hunting for information. When they can’t find what they are looking for, they typically create another report in a self-service BI environment. As the number of reports increases, the names of reports become similar or undifferentiated which can lead to confusion regarding what the report contains, the accuracy and whether it’s appropriate for what they need - as well as if all the relevant information has been discovered. Additionally, report sprawl can slow, and even compromise, informed decision making.

Additionally, report sprawl creates a waste of time and resources. Employees must sort through many documents to find what they are looking for. A Gartner survey found that many employees made poor decisions because they didn't have all the information needed (44%). The proliferation of reports available creates a volume of assets that is difficult to navigate and discover all the relevant information for decision making.

Impact #2: Analytics Governance is Compromised

Without a centralized system or process for defining, creating, updating, validating and managing reports, a sprawling and chaotic reporting environment introduces the risk of duplicate or ungoverned information being used for analytics. When individuals and teams can’t easily identify the appropriate, governed reports they should be using, they are likely to create reports independently, without communicating or collaborating with each other. This can lead to duplication of effort, conflicting or inconsistent data, and difficulty in identifying the source of errors or inconsistencies. Organizations may base their decisions on inaccurate or unreliable data, which can be detrimental.

Impact #3: Difficulty in Identifying Key Insights

Too many reports in an organization makes it difficult for individuals to comb through all of the information and identify relevant patterns and insights that are needed to make informed business decisions. When there is too much information to process, it can be overwhelming for employees to try to make sense of it all.

As a result, they can inadvertently overlook or ignore valuable information, leading to missed opportunities or suboptimal decisions. According to Gartner, 43% of users “frequently or occasionally failed to notice important information because of too many applications or the volume of information.” The organizational impact is that employees may not recognize all the relevant information and may make poor judgments. This is particularly true when the reports are not organized or prioritized in a way that makes it easy to find the most important information or see the big picture.

Impact #4: Difficulty in Aligning Reports With Business Objectives

It can be challenging, if not impossible, to determine which are the most important reports for the organization and which align with its goals and objectives when there is report sprawl. This is especially the case when there is no centralized method or procedure for defining, creating, updating, and governing reports with a “certified” status for specific use. As a result, individuals may produce reports independently without coordination or visibility of what their peers may be creating.

Report sprawl can also make it difficult to measure the success of the company's strategies, as it can be hard to track the metrics that truly matter across variations of similar reports in different applications. This can make it difficult to identify areas for improvement and understand the impact of the company's strategies on the business.

Impact #5: Decreased Employee Satisfaction

Report sprawl causes employees to become frustrated and dissatisfied due to inefficiencies and challenges within their reporting environment.

Decision-makers are expected to consider all relevant information for the decision at hand, but this is not always straightforward because the sheer volume of reports that exist in a variety of locations across an enterprise is often too much information to easily sift through. Yet the detrimental impact of report sprawl on employees is not always due to information overload. Employees must be taught how to successfully navigate the layers of information that exist. One CapGemini survey, for example, found that 53% of technology executives think that users can easily store, retrieve and analyze the data at all levels of the organization’s value chain. But only 39% of business executives think the same. This set of business executives is likely dissatisfied with the discovery and access process - and may fear missing out on critical information for their decisions.

The constant need to scan through a mountain of reports can be exhausting and frustrating. The inability to make educated decisions can lead to a lack of job satisfaction, high turnover, and difficulties with recruitment.

Resolving Report Sprawl Using an Analytics Hub

An analytics hub like ZenOptics helps organizations resolve report sprawl and the associated adverse impacts.

ZenOptics Analytics Hub helps organizations curate and centralize all reports and analytics assets (such as spreadsheets, PDFs, Google Drive resources, etc.), making them easier to manage and govern. The platform makes it easy to discover, access, and share reports, which reduces confusion and improves decision making. The platform also provides analytics governance to ensure a level of confidence by facilitating and indicating “certified” reports as well as standardization for the use of analytics assets - regardless of which business unit or application they may have been created in.. This can help improve an organization's bottom line by making decisions based on consistent, available information.

ZenOptics Analytics Hub provides a single interface to access the most relevant and important reports: facilitating the alignment of relevant reports with key business objectives while reducing the need for employees to comb through an overwhelming amount of documents to find what they're looking for. This improves employee satisfaction, as they can make informed decisions, feel more confident about their decisions and their ability to drive value for the organization.

Conclusion

Report sprawl can significantly impact your organization's efficiency, analytics governance, employee satisfaction, and the ability to make consistent, fully informed decisions.

ZenOptics Analytics Hub reduces report sprawl by curating and centralizing reports, simplifying access to important insights, and facilitating analytics governance. As a result, organizations can streamline their decision-making processes and improve employee satisfaction.

Published January 19, 2023
About The Author

An experienced content strategist and editor, Julie Langenkamp specializes in thought leadership and prescriptive research in the data and analytics industry. Julie has delivered various types of content across print and digital distribution channels in corporate/startup marketing, analyst and advisory services, and traditional publishing environments. She is passionate about business data enablement and data culture and believes organizations need to focus on the experience of their data and analytics consumers (knowledge workers) to drive business objectives.

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