Free Ad Hoc Reporting Tools Can Be Costly for IT

By December 15, 2015Ad Hoc Reporting

SSRS serves well as an early stage reporting tool, but not for ongoing BI needs.

A tool that comes “free” with an application that is a vital part of your organization’s infrastructure can prove to be costly.

An example would be the reporting tools that come with the relational database management system your company uses. These tools work for database administrators, but not for end users of a business intelligence platform. Take Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) as an example. It worked well as a basic data engine for early stage reporting against a database. But now your clients want your application to have a modern BI platform that’s accessible for business users.

Many organizations started using this software because it came with the purchase of their SQL Server licenses. But technical limitations of SSRS make it difficult for anyone outside of the IT department to put it to use. Either developers or DBAs — or both — are needed just to produce a standard report.

“Developing sophisticated reports, however, can be slow and tedious,” said David Acevedo in a review of SSRS.

He said developers will spend hours “squinting at the screen getting every pixel to fall exactly where they want it.” Just setting up data sources requires advanced SQL developers. “It’s not like other modern BI platforms where stores of data sets are easily converted to dashboards,” Acevedo said.

Changes are coming to SSRS with SQL Server 2016. But even with these updates, Microsoft seems more interested in moving customers to its other BI platforms, including Power BI.

With SSRS, the end user:

  • Can’t create or customize the reports, dashboards and data visualizations.
  • Can’t add new columns or remove columns.
  • Can’t build a new report from scratch.
  • Can’t add in charts and graphs and visualizations on top of that data set.

It’s not any easier for the ISV, as setting up security can be just as difficult. All security, group/role/tenant based security must be near hard coded, for data restrictions as well as feature differences between roles. An SSRS configuration likely will take months longer and will need IT, DBAs and business analysts to use it. Acevedo did say that SSRS is easy to integrate and install in an enterprise setting, but that isn’t the whole story. Maintenance can be costly and without self-service BI functionality, eliminating real-time engagement.

In the end, it’s all about getting the business user the information needed on time to drive data insights and actions. Acevedo advises that “companies should follow Microsoft in abandoning the gentle giant once and for all.”

Izenda doesn’t require heavy coding or overly involved processes to integrate with an ISV’s application. Typically, an Izenda integration requires a single technical lead to seamlessly embed the BI platform into the application.

Izenda’s ad hoc reporting solution gives the tools to business end users to create reports and dashboards. They won’t need IT or DBAs to hard code queries and report layouts. Instead, Izenda lets users drag and drop fields, filter, sum and aggregate data, to create reports in minutes instead of hours.

To learn more about how Izenda can deliver self-service BI inside your application, request a product demo.
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