Free Reporting Tools Not Free: Uncover the Hidden Costs

apple keyboard and macbook free reporting tools visual hidden costs and human capital

Free reporting tools are offered by some vendors and they have their rightful place, especially early on.

What must be addressed is their shortcomings and how it ultimately effects the big picture.

A lack of adaptability, usability and scalability eventually eats away at your organization’s funds potential ROI. Cut enormous costs and your workload over time by understanding where your free options fall short.

Free Reporting Tools Require a Developer

Most reporting solutions claim to be web-based, but they essentially only allow a desktop report to be published to the web.

The limitation with this approach is that this only works with static or canned reports.

Since there is no way to anticipate most of the reports that will be needed, users tend to need customized reports. 

Traditional reporting tools require a software developer to make any and all changes.  Additionally, this individual will require administrator level permissions to the database.

This means users can not use these tools on a daily basis because they do not know how to connect to databases, use programming tools or the SQL language.



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User Communities Need Numerous Reports Every Year

In situations where self-service reporting is available or report providers are responsive, even small teams may ask for dozens of custom reports.

Larger teams may ask for over a hundred.

For software vendors that are serving multiple customers, this problem is compounded further and the user community may need thousands of reports every year.

Free reporting tools fall short in this instance unless, of course, the report is being run by an individual in-house.


Keeping Up with Requests Requires Significant Engineering Time

Even in harsh economic times, qualified software engineers are difficult to find and command ever-increasing salaries.

Outsourcing does not work well for reporting due to language and time zone barriers.  Additionally, reports may contain sensitive information which must remain within the domain of the organization.

Reporting demands time, and even a simple customization may take a few hours of work because the developer needs to understand the requirement, load the existing report, analyze the data model, update the model, validate the report with the user and finally publish the report to the web server.

Creating new reports from scratch can take even longer.  Since developers generally do not understand the data they are working with, it may take a few tries before the report is correct.

Free Reporting Tools are Not Completely Self-Service or Browser-Based

Most vendors provide end-user-based free reporting tools which are designed for intranet environments and behave like desktop applications. They run on a users desktop and require installation.

Additionally, they require a direct connection to the database server which is normally not available to users for security reasons.

While users can exercise these tools to generate reports, a developer must first create a model and update the model every time new information is needed.

In contrast, a true self-service solution allows users to create and customize reports directly while ensuring that users only see data to which they have access.

The Costs of Developer-Driven Reports

A software vendor, IT organization or solutions provider may serve up to 100 or more customers or departments.

Each organization may need between 10 and 100 custom reports per year. Some larger organizations may need well over 100.

Let’s assume that a software engineer with good communication skills costs about $100,000 per year after salary, benefits and other expenses.

Serving 50 customers that require 50 reports every year each would require three full time engineers dedicated to reporting.  For a fraction of this cost, self-service reporting solutions exist that  can be implemented in a manner of days.

Time = 50 Customers * 50 Reports Per Year * 2.5 Hours Per Report = 6,250 Man Hours = 3 Man Years

Cost = 3 Man Years * $100,000 = $300,000


Building vs. Buying Self-Service Reporting

Many organizations that understand the true costs of traditional reporting have tried to implement self-service capabilities in-house.

Unfortunately such projects are often risky and provide underwhelming results.

Providing a full solution with exports, charts, filters, pivots and dashboards requires a significant capital investment.

This  is a large project, there are numerous development and QA details that involve critical challenges such as  PDF rendering, AJAX, data validation, ensuring security and optimizing performance.  Implementing a high performance flexible reporting system for an individual application can take as long as 3-5 man years of engineering and QA time.

Additionally, it could be one or more years before it gets delivered to customers which creates the potential for a competitor to offer reporting to their customers more quickly.

In contrast, a few vendors offer self-service reporting who provide a complete solution that can be delivered in a manner of days for a fraction of annual cost.

3-5 Man Years * $100,000 = $300,000 – $500,000 + Delayed Release


The Potential Cost of Not Providing Reports is Even Greater

While instructing your professional software engineers to create reports has enormous costs, the real cost is not providing them at all.

Business users learn to stop asking for reports when they do not get them fast enough. 

This results in critical decisions being made without necessary information.

Application providers and software vendors miss critical opportunities to engage decision makers with static reporting.

Since decision makers tend to use reporting rather than the application, not satisfying their needs risks losing a customer or limiting adoption.


Integrating Izenda Quickly

Izenda was built from the ground up to integrate into existing multi-tenant and multi-user applications, unlike many solutions that were originally developed for the desktop.

According to one white-labeled software CEO, “Izenda Reports allowed us to deploy flexible reporting to our customers in a matter of days. Everyone was impressed!”  Izenda’s unique quick start allows for basic integration with an application’s security, navigation and appearance in record time.

With seamless, flexible, and customizable BI solutions from Izenda, we can alleviate the heavy lifting, allowing you to focus on your core competencies.

Our embedded analytics solution integrates into your existing platform at code-level, invisible to your end users, and gets you to market faster. Request your demo with an Intelligence Consultant today!

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