Between now and my previous post --'why Power BI won't replace a Data Warehouse'--which was built on ideas shared in 'why people should stop confusing BI with Visualization', I've done even more thinking on the topic of why clients have unsuccessful or incomplete Business Intelligence implementations. The good news is, it's seldom a case of bad software fit, lack of resources or expertise, so much as uncertainty around what the desired outcome should be. It doesn't matter if your solution is Targit, Crystal, SAP, ZapBI or Jet Enterprise, if the client doesn't start with a clear vision of what they want, no matter what you deliver, it seems, they don't want that!
Ultimately, the root challenge is not a question of functionality or capability so much as whether the user can articulate what they want or need. I just had a conversation with a potential client who lamented, "No one on my team except me really knows what they want." Honestly, that degree of transparency is better than the dreaded "we just want a simple dashboard," but there's still work to be done!
It's time to sit down with your users and map out some mock ups of what you want your final reports to look like. Get away from emails and lengthy paragraph long descriptions; instead, use simplified spreadsheets with sample headers, fake data, mock-up graphs, or a list of the KPI's you want to see in your solution. Even an seemingly obvious question like, "How do you want to consume this data, (spreadsheet, pivot table, web page, or mobile device) can have far reaching implications on what Front End software you use to develop your reports! I've delivered more than a handful of dashboard workshops where my opening question"what do you want your dashboard to look like?" was met with dead silence. #FacePalm.
If this still seems too daunting, maybe it's time to do a little window shopping--did you know that Jet Reports has over 100+ generic reports available for you to use? I know, "these generic reports don't quite meet your company's unique needs." But that's not our expectation! If you can express what does and doesn't work about a generic report, then we can uncover not only what you want and need, but now you have ideas about what it could look like on paper! A good Jet consultant can customize any of the Report Player reports, or even build a more robust one from scratch with all the features you want!
Unfortunately consultants are sometimes slow to promote the Report Player. "Our end users don't like it because XYZ." Trust me, I've heard every possible reason, from both clients and consultants, but I'll shorten my counter-argument to the following: the Report Player inspires users with glimpses of what's possible. At the end of the day, consultants can only deliver what users ask for, and clients can only ask for what they know about or have seen before. I like to think of the Report Player as a mini IKEA catalogue: the pictures are there to whet your appetite. Don't expect completeness; instead, let the report layouts be a source of inspiration. I love it when a client shows me a report and says: "I love it, but can it do ..." Now we can focus the conversation to delivering exactly what you want because you know what you're looking for.