With a growing emphasis on business intelligence and facilitating data driven decision-making, reporting has become a more vital daily function than ever. Organizational leaders are being encouraged to peer into the data their applications capture in order to obtain actionable insights and an accurate depiction of how their operations are going.
The problem with many applications is that end-user friendly reporting data sets work contrary to the way most databases are designed. Put in perhaps oversimplified terms, databases geared to be used by applications and databases geared to reporting will have differing design philosophies. Any organization that wants to harness the full power of their data without bringing normal operational functions to a grinding halt must carefully consider their database architecture and consider what works best for the application, and what works best for business intelligence.
To explore this problem further, here is a deeper explanation of the data-side challenges reporting faces along with some common solutions:
Going Against the Current
The biggest issue with data reporting using a typical, non-reporting-optimized database is that the way it accesses data benefits application efficiency but not human eyes. We want to see the data, manipulate it, visualize it from different angles and ultimately mold it into something that makes needed actions and responses plain.
If you are trying to mess with data like this while an application is simultaneously attempting to use said data, you are going to run into significant slowdowns and that will be the least of your problems. The worst-case scenario? You end up with read/write errors that corrupt data, get erroneous result sets, or make your infrastructure more prone to crashing applications and overloading databases.
To simplify the issue, think of application-geared databases as a neatly organized system of Legos . Everything precisely grouped by color, piece type, length and width. Employees need these parts in real-time in order to construct things that are useful, such as completing a customer transaction or updating their contact information, and this structure might work well for that. However, if you are constantly pulling bricks from the pile to count them or visualize potential ways they could be reassembled, the database and the employees that rely upon the set will be tapping their foot impatiently until those pieces are returned. More than likely, employees will be waiting on the one team that is really good at building with Legos to do all the work for them.
One of the biggest drivers of this issue is that a well-functioning application database is completely normalized: all of the data is stored in one place so that there are no redundant copies and it can be easily accessed by code designed specifically for those structures.
With reporting, de-normalized and pre-aggregated data makes running multiple reports at once simpler and much faster. Because of these differences, reporting with the same database you designed for your applications can create a conflict of interest.
Possible Data Reporting Solutions
There are many solutions to running reports without interfering with the application database, but only one that truly meets the needs of any organization even as it scales.The only true solution, according to experts, is to build a separate reporting database that allows for de-normalized data storage, read-only permissions as standard and for functions like duplication that make data reporting occur much quicker. These separate systems require data importing around-the-clock or continually in real-time, but their ability to archive data and store it in more compact formats helps organizations avoid informational bloat that quickly erodes speed to insight.
Naturally, not every business will have the means to invest in such a robust solution, but off-site contracts that allow for data warehousing and departmental “data marts” help you scale reporting storage capacities quickly and affordably. You can learn more about the solution that works best for your organization by exploring our embedded BI and analytics options.