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What's the difference between Reporting and Monitoring

Understanding this can help us create reliable business processes

They’re the same, right? Take some data, do some analysis and see the results.

Well, not quite.

There certainly is data involved in both activities, but the objective is different. 

Tl;dr: 

Reporting is gathering relevant data and organising it in a logical, presentable manner. The goal is to communicate the status of a project or process, and understand how it changes w.r.t time and other parameters.

Monitoring is observing a system to see how it is behaving at a particular point in time. The goal is to ensure the system runs as expected, and to send a warning when it doesn’t.

Why is this important?

Companies today are drowning in data. You already know this.

Every single team in every company – product, marketing, sales, business, customer success, finance. Not just high volume data, but also high frequency. Every second there is an activity being logged.

This wasn’t always the case. Before 2010, things were calmer. And our reporting processes were ideal for those simple times.

In this new era, monitoring and reporting have evolved into distinct roles, both equally important. They are in fact the two most important elements to design an optimal business process.

Sometimes you might end up confusing the two and use them interchangeably. Let’s understand what they are.

What is Monitoring?

“The ability to detect & respond to an event in real-time” or you can say “a quick response to events as they are happening”.

Real-time monitoring is when you continuously scan your processes to detect abnormal events. These events are anomalies that can have both positive or negative impact on your business. Early detection helps take quick on- the-spot decisions to respond to such anomalous events. You can curb the negative and leverage the positive impact if you act quickly!

Anomalous events can occur because of random reasons including but not limited to the business environment, seasonality, macroeconomic changes, and more. These events have the potential to disrupt your individual business functions.

What is Reporting?

Reporting is a comprehensive visual representation of the key performance indicators (KPIs) to make sense of your business data.

Reporting helps you analyse the performance of a business function and take short-term as well as long-term decisions to improve them. It helps remove unnecessary and ineffective elements from your business process to make it more efficient and cost-friendly.

Reporting is done through the representation of data in the form of tables, graphs, bar charts, pie charts, and more. They are then used visually, to analyse the performance of each aspect of a business process.

Reporting vs Monitoring: 

Point of difference

Reporting

Real-time monitoring

Role

Represent performance data in an organised manner.

Detect abnormal events in real-time.

Impact

On long-term strategic decision making.

On real-time decisions for anomalous events.

Purpose

To continuously improve and optimise the performance of business functions through analysis.

To limit the negative and maximise the positive impact when an anomalous event occurs.

Time

Reporting is done for a considerable period of time. A week, a month, or even a year.

It is a continuous process to detect events for a specific point in time.

Who uses it

Management and leaders making decisions based on details from reports.

Professionals who handle business functions such as sales, marketing to monitor anomalous events.

Medium

Tables, Charts, Graphs, etc.

Alerts on mails/communication channels.

Data Type

Current as well as historic data.

Real-time/fresh data.

Human Intervention

Very high. Constant manual data feeding, updates, and more to create visual reports.

Very less. Some initial setup and connection changes to be done manually.

Importance Of Monitoring And Reporting

Now that you know how both monitoring and reporting are unique in their functioning. It's time to discuss their individual importance in your business.

They are crucial to a business at all times and have a great deal of importance in running a sustainable business. Their importance lies in the benefits they bring to your business. Let's understand what are those benefits.

Reporting

Visual Reporting ensures the data-driven growth of your business. Management teams, team leaders of different operations like sales, marketing, finance can have a peek into what is happening in individual business functions through visual reporting. This helps them to make informed decisions on their next course of action for strategic planning and optimising existing strategies.

Benefits of reporting - 

Monitoring

If you are having a lot of real-time data coming from your business metrics employing real-time monitoring is crucial to your business. It can help you hold greater control over your business process.

Anomalous events have associated changes, opportunities, and problems. For these, a dedicated, intelligent, and automated monitoring system is needed in place for your business.

With reference to historical data, real-time monitoring tools can set thresholds, adapt to new normal, and can even detect correlative anomalies with their advanced ML models.

You should know what, when & how of any anomalous event that happens in real-time to stay in control of your business. And real-time monitoring of your business process is the way to do that.

Benefits of real-time monitoring -

Benefits through examples -

Benefits

Reporting

Monitoring

Cost Savings

You identify from reports that you has an extra step which can be eliminated to save costs.

You used to miss important events. But now with real-time monitoring you mitigate the cost that occurs due to correcting undetected problem that got magnified with time.

Revenue

In a particular zone your best product is undersold because of lesser promotion. You can change the promotion strategy to increase revenue from that zone based on insights from report for that zone.

There is a sudden failure in payment gateway which causes loss of revenue. You can identify and quickly fix this to stop revenue loss.

Customer Experience

You found this trait a long time customer showed from customer report and now you can use it for personalisation of the product to improve customer experience.

You get an alert for a glitch in the checkout process that caused significant customers to drop. Now you can fix this before they come again to buy & new ones don't face this issue.

Which one is right for you?

The answer is, both!

You will need reporting for visualising the progress of your business, to optimise the business processes, make strategic changes and decide on long-term objectives.

You will need monitoring for ensuring the health of your business functions in real-time. Detecting any anomalous events as they happen will help you stay in control of your business.

The right choice will totally depend on your business and the business metrics that you want to remain on top of. Big or small, any organisation can employ both to remain informed about everything that is happening with their business. It's important that you understand the needs of your business for reporting and monitoring to choose the right tools and methods.

While reporting gives a holistic view of the state of your business and its individual functions, real-time monitoring gives organisations an opportunity to solve small problems before they escalate into bigger and complex ones.

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