Creating awesome reports for your organization is often times at the top of the list for many seeking a great online registration software. They want to make sure a key feature offered with the software is easy to use and helpful registration reporting tools. Sadly though, many people often settle for static reports or reports that don’t offer much in the way of really understanding your data and allowing you to use your registration reporting tools for a wide variety of purposes.
In this post I have included the 5 most important reporting questions and their answers that come up time and again with the 4,000+ organizations that use Regpack as their registration system.
I want more than just an excel spreadsheet that I can generate from all the data in my online system. Does this exist?!
Yes of course! Create charts and graphs, export into excel, a pdf, word doc…sometimes the options are endless. Well almost, but a good system should be able to give you what YOU need. That might be just excel, but you need a system that’s also powerful enough to let you gather the data you need in the best way possible (see questions and answers below about dynamic reports and multidimensional reports).
The key to ‘just another excel document’ and quality reporting, is how you get the data you need and how easy it is to generate the data that will be exported into an excel or other document. The great thing about a powerful system is that it will allow you to filter and find any data you want and then run a report based on any combination of data. It will also enable you to create a variety of different reports suited to different people (your accountant, program counselors, directors, admins, etc) within seconds. And as information changes and updates, running a new report with updated data and the same parameters is easy. All this applies to the right online registration system of course!
What do you mean by static vs. dynamic reports?
So in order to gather data like described above, you need a powerful online registration system with a great filtering tool.
If you want the technical description of static vs. dynamic, check out this Microsoft article. A static report is basically a report run on a certain set of parameters. You create the parameters and “run” the report (for example, a specific date range and a specific set of applicants (paid, unpaid, etc). Then the system will dump the same information every time regardless of the report you are running. For example, you might want a report of people registered between June and July in order to email them. In this case you only need their name and email not their balance, parent name and selected services. A static report will give you the same information regardless of what you are doing right now. This creates a lot of noise and a lot of mental work for you which will slow you down.
A dynamic report is a template of information put together in a specific way. This means you can create an unlimited amount of reports from the same set of data. It’s like you’re creating reports from information that doesn’t really exist. That makes no sense…does it? Basically a dynamic report would be, for example, creating a report that comprises all applicants that ordered a specific product, applied in the last 10 days and have indicated they are interested in one of your other offerings. Filtering and choosing what data you include in the report gives you the power to really use your data, understand it, gain perspective on marketing tactics (run a report on applicants who have paid and where they were referred from to check what marketing campaigns are working and what aren’t!).
In order to go beyond just static reports (list of applicants and their program they are enrolled in), you need a software that can filter and put together any number of combinations and export into a format that works for your business.
So what does a dynamic report look like?
Say your program offers food options. Run a report for all applicants coming in April and all their food allergies. You just created a great dynamic report you can send off to the caterer or cook to make sure April meals serve the needs of those attending. Want to send your driver who makes airport pick-ups a helpful schedule without all the back and forth emails of flight information, dates, times and names? Run a daily, weekly, monthly, etc report for him or her! Select all participants who ordered pick up service, their flight times, date of arrival and location to be dropped off instantly!
What’s the difference between a “normal” report and a multi-dimensional report?
This is kind of the same thing as static vs. dynamic (but obviously a little different otherwise it would not be a question of its own). A normal report is flat. This means it is like ONE HUGE excel with ALL THE DATA thrown in there. A housing coordinator might have to search and copy paste all the data THEY want, the transportation coordinator the same and on and on. This is the type of report that most organizations without a good registration and data management software use. This gets messy, which saved document is the most recent? What information is changed by one colleague but not updated to others, etc. Who has the latest version? Who copied and pasted from the main document into their own document and now doesn’t know there have been updates made! What a mess!!!
Flat reports aren’t so bad when you don’t have that much information so maybe for some organizations this is always the case and therefore a powerful filtering feature isn’t that necessary (though it’s still awesome)! But the second you have a ton of information that doesn’t fit in one normal view of excel, you’re going to be wanting more.
A multidimensional report can be achieved through a database with information on demand-like capabilities. This will get you the data you need ONLY without all the fluff and confusion. You can group sets of data and user information together according to your different products or really in any way that you need. You will be able to see the data you want to see for the specific applicants you want to see it for. This makes creating reports for anyone in your office a snap. Your accountant will love you when you send over reports of each program, each applicant and the amount they paid and for which products they paid for.
The point of a system powerful enough to give you dynamic and multidimensional reports is to save you time, make your life easier and ultimately allow you to spend more time on your actual job and less time copying and pasting and making sense of your data.
What specific features should I look for that will give me awesome reports?
These are some of the features and solutions you should be looking for when you want to make sure your reporting will be super awesome!
The ability to run reports from anywhere
One great feature to look for is the ability to access your data from anywhere, or put another way a system that stores your information in the cloud. Being able to access your data from anywhere means you can access the data you want and run a report, at any time, anywhere. This can be priceless, especially for certain kinds of organizations that either have people who work from home, are on the go and need information in real time, etc.
The ability to run reports on anything
Look for a system that lets you run reports on EVERYTHING, not just a set amount of search features (like date range, program, etc). You want the ability to choose ANY set of data with any other set of data and create any report you want – to be exported to excel, pdf, create charts, graphics, etc.
The ability to turn reports into knowledge and action items
A great feature is a statistics feature. Run reports not just to see your applicants and their information, but also information about your business. Run a graph to see your income month by month and see if your business is growing, staying the same or going down. You should even be able to run statistics on filters you’ve already created, so see how information changes over time.
The ability to turn reports in order to get better
Another awesome feature would be to evaluate your user data and see what aspects of your application are working and what isn’t. Track user actions and learn about your users so you can improve your process. This is a great feature so you can quickly fix conceptual bugs (these are bugs that cause people to get stuck in the process) or other hiccups in your system before they become a real problem and get smooth and hassle free registration on track.
My system of copying and pasting data into excel columns works just fine. What am I missing with all this talk about “great registration reporting tools and features”?
You’re missing all the great things dynamic reporting features can give you! Aside from saving you a ton of time and making all of your staff happy with their awesome reports, a software that gives you filtering tools and easy reporting will give you insight into your organization as well.
With the power to filter and find any set of data, you can generate statistics about anything just like that. How many people from this school, state, company, etc attended your program or event. What does this mean for your outreach in those places? Reporting is an integral part of your business. They have the ability to give you a picture of your business and show you what you want to see, and nothing more. This can be priceless, not just in the time you save from creating reports the ‘old’ way but also in how you view your business and what is working, and what isn’t.
The ability to visualize your data and learn from it is valuable. To be able to summarize your data and see it in action eases the burden of making sense of tons of information all at once. Any department can easily and quickly get the data they need to get on with their tasks.
Don’t underestimate the value of a good data management system that can give you the reports you need! What you’re doing now might work and ‘be fine’ and that’s great. But what about a system that can do all that’s described above? How can a reporting system like this increase productivity, accuracy and team communication for your business and how will this positively impact your work flow? Something to ponder…!