Data Analysis, Data Viz, ESG Analytics, Financial Services Analytics, Retail Analytics

How to Get Actionable Insights Faster: The Downside to Legacy Reports

Turning company data into insights

Every analyst, manager or aspiring manager wants to get insights out of company data as quickly as possible—a must to quickly make decisions to improve the business. As a business intelligence developer and analyst at Verstand AI, I usually see our clients rely on standardized reports for consistent insights. In established companies, it is not uncommon to use the same reports for many years, perhaps even a decade. Most of the time those reports are sufficient, especially since they are so familiar and one can quickly understand the general trends of the business and intuitively know where to look to answer questions. Usually those reports are a static tabular report that looks like this:

Static tabular report

Static tabular report

In this example, one could spend time searching through rows and columns to determine which product has achieved the biggest gains within the last year and which are struggling. An analyst might be able to get insights with relative ease by using knowledge gained from day-to-day business activities, such as ordering supplies to produce the products and talking to co-workers. But how long would it take for someone new to the company to deduce that information?

Add visual cues for at-a-glance insights

One way to reduce the time to actionable insight—in this case understanding which products are performing well – is to add visual cues to the original report.

Visual cues added to the original report

Visual cues added to the original report

Just by adding colored data bars, an analyst can quickly see that Classic Cars product S18_3232 has had the most sales this month and has had the largest dollar increase since last year. One also sees that Trucks and Buses products S24_2300, S18_4600, and S18_2319 experienced huge sales increases from last year. In addition, Classic Cars product S12_1108 had a large decrease in sales from last year as well as in the last month. With this insight, efforts might be made to focus on Trucks and Buses and determine if Classic Cars product S12_1108 should be discontinued. 

Enhancing data visualization to enable decision making

Adding those visual cues was extremely helpful, but one can even go a step further and visualize the data like this:

Original table supplemented with aggregated bar charts and a map

Original table supplemented with aggregated bar charts and a map

By keeping the original table for the detail, one can supplement it with aggregated bar charts and a map. The immediate and actionable insight an analyst now sees is that although the Trucks and Buses product line is not the highest sales, it had the largest percentage growth over the last year—an impressive 62% increase. By clicking on the interactive visual, the marketing team of the company can look at the individual products to see which are contributing to that growth and realize there is decent growth for a number of the products, no growth for product S12_4473, and the largest growth came from S18_2319 and S12_1666. 

Including the map gives us additional insight into how the products are performing by location. The company analysts are able to see that sales of Trucks and Buses have increased in Spain, France, Canada, and Australia, while declining in the USA and Singapore. Now the analysts have much more information than was found in the traditional tabular report and can make that insight available so that decisions can be made. 

At Verstand, we strive to help clients make the most of their data. If you’d like to learn more about how we can enable your analyst work force, please contact us at

Data Source: 

At Verstand, we strive to help clients make the most of their data. If you’d like to learn more about how we can enable your analyst workforce, please contact us at


About Lisa Riannson

Lisa Riannson is an experienced data analyst, business intelligence developer, and team leader. As Business Intelligence Manager, her goals include creating actionable reports for clients, developing her team members, and providing the best insights possible. While business intelligence is her primary job, Lisa is also an award-winning artist who has exhibited in Colorado and New York, as well as performed live demonstrations at the Denver Art Museum.

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