Finally… Freedom from Excel Report and Chart Making!
I am excited about our new enterprise reporting product, The Guru (you can read the news release here). Not just because it is a really cool new product that can report off any system and it is easy to use, but mostly because it is actually gong to save me time since we will be using it internally.
In fact, I decided to try and estimate the amount of time I have spent creating, manipulating, recalculating, reconciling and combining reports over the past 10 years. Conservatively, I would put it at around 1,200 hours. That is the equivalent of three work weeks every single year! Scary. And I would think most any fundraising professional, consultant, online manager, direct response manager, etc. is somewhere between half that to double that amount of time (depending on the emphasis your manager, organization or clients place on reporting).
The even more frightening thing is that most folks I have talked to in our space agree that most organizations do not do enough reporting and analysis. The number one cause of that is simple: it is too difficult and takes too much time.
If your experience is remotely like mine (both as a consultant and as a departmental director at a nonprofit), reporting historically went something like this:
STEP 1: Data Extraction – This is the joy of running database queries and reports from the various and sundry systems you need data from.
STEP 2: Manually Merge in Excel – This was one of my favorite tasks as we had to squeeze all that data, fields and metrics often labeled differently, into excel to create the report.
STEP 3: Check Calculations and Reconcile Numbers – Ahh, this was always the best part because, you just knew, that the number from one report that should match up to a number from a different report would not. Or an Excel formula would run a calculation—say year-to-date (YTD) giving calculated by adding the monthly totals—and it wouldn’t match the YTD total the donor management system was giving you. So, you invest a few hours in digging into the underlying data to reconcile the discrepancies (or cross your fingers and hope no one notices).
STEP 4: Build the Charts – Now, most of you savvy report veterans have your report templates in Excel (or elsewhere) that usually include charts already built and reused. The problem seems to come (and it seems to come most every month) when you get asked by an executive or a board member to create a new chart that illustrates trends across X metric or to put it into PowerPoint and make it snappy. Either way, there’s another hour or two gone.
Just writing that (and probably reading it as well) is laborious. That is why I have seen more than one person burn out on the repetition.
Enter, The Guru. The Guru, naturally, does not solve every problem—data from different systems is still data from different systems and cannot be magically brought into reporting harmony. But what The Guru does eliminate is STEP 1, STEP 2 and STEP 4. It takes care of all of that for you using a simple browser based wizard through a four-screen process. It even makes STEP 3 above (Reconciliation) much easier by allowing you to jump back in reports (not start over) and change parameters…or even data sources! That’s pretty cool. No more open up separate applications and browsers and re-running multiple reports or, worse, writing SQL.
So, excuse my enthusiasm and natural bias, but I can say definitively that The Guru could have saved me at least 1,000 hours of time over the past 10 years. That is 125 work days that could have been more effectively spent focusing on the mission, with say 10 or so slated for a nice holiday given my efficiency!
Check it out for yourself at http://www.orangeleap.com/product_guru.html and let me know what you think.