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One path to standardizing on a reporting and visualization tool

Most enterprises want to standardize on a single BI reporting tool, but change is hard. One company took the long view toward getting there and it's paying off.

At PSCU Inc., a company that provides administrative and technical services to credit unions across the country, about half of the staff is using one tool for BI reporting and visualization. That is progress.

The company implemented Qlik Sense this year to start to break down data silos that were resulting in duplicate work and a lack of collaboration between departments. Depending on the line of business, workers were using reporting and visualization software including Tableau Software, Microsoft Power BI and Microsoft Access databases. While the ultimate goal was to get everyone working on the Qlik tool, the team considered having about half of the company there good progress.

"We were already living in that siloed world," said Mike Dove, senior business intelligence analyst at PSCU. "This was trying to break into those silos."

Dove said the company isn't forcing everyone to migrate to the new tool. The goal is to make it easier on holdouts who want to continue doing things the way they have in the past. This can be a problem with many new reporting software implementations. However, Dove said that by providing training and explaining to people how the new centralized approach is better, they will be convinced to self-migrate, avoiding much of the conflict that often comes with new implementations.

PSCU provides a range of services for credit unions. One of their main lines of business is processing credit and debit card transactions. The company also manages marketing campaigns, customer support call centers and websites. As part of these services, PSCU provides clients with reports on how each area is performing.

Dove and his team decided to implement a centralized reporting tool after struggling with data elements that were defined differently by different lines of business. It was also a push to unify data stored in several different databases, including Oracle, Teradata and SQL Server stores.

"What we saw was, when we wanted to look at our performance overall, it was very difficult," Dove said. "We had to cull all these sources together. That became untenable and hard to manage."

As part of the implementation of the new reporting and visualization tool, Dove's team also worked with the data management team to build extract, transform and load processes to feed the reporting tool with consistent data from these disparate stores. These processes replaced several outdated jobs that refreshed data daily. Now, analysts working in the Qlik tool have access to data that's refreshed hourly or faster, depending on the job.

Dove said he believes the remaining 50% of the workers who have yet to migrate to the centralized tool will make the change soon, once they realize the benefits of the new approach. Taking siloed, manual processes and making them more consistent throughout the organization has helped.

"We understood we could make a more streamlined business intelligence service," he said. "No more of that manual stuff." 

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