Before knowing your competitor, you’ll have to know your business. You have to be on top of data and metrics pertaining to every single transaction and sale. Business Intelligence is an art and can be a costly proposition. The tools available for mining and interpreting data are pricey and the talent required to handle them isn’t cheap either.
Zoho Reports is an online reporting and business intelligence service that helps you get new insights on your business information. Today we shall take this affordable web based alternative for a spin.
Personally, I have immense respect for Zoho. They have a reputation for building great web apps for businesses at an affordable price. If there’s a possibility of building a cloud based alternative and if it’s being used by businesses, you can bet the house that Zoho might’ve build it. I consider them to be the HTC of web apps. One such web app is Zoho Reports.
Zoho Reports allows you to easily create and share powerful reports in minutes with no IT help. You can either upload spreadsheets and other tabular data (like CSV, TSV, XLS and HTML files) or manually enter data directly using sleek interface that resembles a spreadsheet. You don’t have to worry about the security of the documents uploaded as it happens over a secure connection.
Signing up for an all access Zoho account is extremely and they also support seamless login access via your existing Google, Google Apps, Yahoo and Facebook accounts.
Zoho Reports comes with a bunch of subscription plans. Based on the number of records, users and databases, the pricing varies. A free plan is available with a limitation of 2 users and 100000 rows of data for you to try the service.
After a silky smooth single click sign in process with my Google Account, I landed up on the dashboard. The user interface isn’t particularly slick, but all options are accompanied by a neat, helpful description. There are an umpteen number of options available to import or input data. Even if the data is in a database (like Oracle, MySQL etc.) behind your firewall, Zoho Reports can import it.
Before beginning this review, I was searching for some heavy databases to import and test the app. If you are also planning to check how well the app can perform, head over to the Featured Samples section. Here you can find a lot of example databases showcasing the various reports and charts that can be pulled using this amazing web app. User created and publicly available databases have a dedicated section too.
Using the built in upload tool, you can import databases that do not exceed 10 MB in size or 500,000 records. Contact Zoho support if you have a larger database. The import happens in two steps. The first step is related to specifying the file type, naming it, adding tags etc.
The second step is where the data uploaded is assigned its own rows and columns. You can check if all data occupy their respective columns and if not, you can edit them here.
When importing a database of records, date formats can be misinterpreted. This is primarily due to the various conventions people follow when entering a date. To avoid any such mishandling of data, Zoho Reports offers a thoroughly compiled list of date formats. All possible permutations and combinations of date formats are here to help you ensure accurate representation of information.
Reports & Filters
Creating a report is a piece of cake. Select the type of chart you want in the report and start adding fields by just dragging and dropping them in their respective axes. Zoho has included a small how to and a video to help you in the chart creation process. Options to edit the colors and text are available in this page. For creating filters, use the same drag and drop routine.
Graphs and Charts are very thorough and are precise. If you hover the mouse over a section of the graph, data pertaining to that section will be displayed. Added a bit too many details to the graph? Use the check marks to temporarily take that part of the data off the graph. This is a great way to compare and contrast the parameters involved.You can also apply filters over charts by clicking on either of the Filter buttons or by selecting the “Filters” vertical tab.
Types of Reports
Zoho Reports offers a wide variety of charts, pivot tables and tabular view components to build insightful reports and dashboards. Line, Scatter, Bar, Stacked Bar, Scatter, Web and Table chart types can be created. Both 2D and 3D representation is supported in the charts.
I particularly liked the way sections of a pie chart moved when you hover the mouse over them. You can export the data and charts as CSV, PDF or as an image file.
The USP of all Zoho apps is their impeccable collaboration options and Zoho Reports is no exception. Multiple sharing options are available. You can share only with your contacts, with a group or publish a table or report so that it becomes public and is accessible by all.
Zoho Reports is dogged by the same complaint that spans across all of its apps — a relatively tacky user interface. Zoho concentrates on building apps and their feature-set but less focus is given to the user interface. I am not saying the user interface is downright shoddy. Its just that the interface isn’t supporting the richness of the feature-set. However, at the end of the day, Zoho Reports would be a perfect fit for businesses looking for an affordable and intuitive Business Intelligence app to mine their data.
Share Your Thoughts!
Do you think Zoho Reports is easy enough a tool to use? What app do you use to data mine your business?