Glific’s reporting and analytics primarily makes use of Google Suite Products (Bigquery and Datasutdio). Although I have had experience working with several open source reporting and BI tools offering 0 to full control in terms of automation, this was the first time I made use of either Bigquery or Datastudio for data management, dashboarding or reporting. I must say I was fairly surprised with the ease with which I was able to pick it up.
In terms of Bigquery, a working knowledge of SQL is all that’s necessary to get around using it. With an easy to navigate UI, a familiar-looking SQL editor and a working pane that allows you to go back to all the messy queries you wrote, Bigquery is exactly like any other SQL admin tool + more. The only difficulties that you ever experience is when you have to set up a project on your console. This however is mitigated with the amazing documentation that Google provides to get you started immediately.
Datastudio is another great product. Even though my training as a data scientist has seen me work with programming languages offering great visualisation libraries, I always resort to using Excel when it comes to quickly drawing up charts. And Datastudio offers me exactly that – it’s just simple excel layered with options to add filters, styles, templates etc to convert your “sheets” into good looking real-time dashboards. I love how Datastudio connects to any datasource whether it be your offline CSV files, Google Forms, Google Sheets, your MySQL server etc. and how it allows you to blend them together to visualise multiple datastreams within the same view. It’s very flexible to work with. The visualisations available within Datastudio however are fairly limited (charts, tables, time series – excel stuff) and if you need to use fancier visualisations, you will have to rely on the charts made available by the open-source community within Datastudio.
My work at Glific has involved talking with social impact organisations about their monitoring and evaluation needs and best incorporating them within our reports and dashboards. At times, when I was asked to extract nested fields or to convert JSON objects for workflows into tables that can be visualised, I was able to easily query views for these use-cases using Bigquery and connect them with Datastudio to visualise. Adding new data requirements, modifying and updating fields, building new report pages or downloading dashboards for external consumption are all possible using these two tools.
Over the course of my involvement at Glific, I have seen how these two tools have unlocked the monitoring and evaluation use-cases for NGOs who have often come to us to embed a new feature request or to co-create analytics solutions to enhance their outreach efforts. It’s been extremely fun working alongside them on these use-cases and standardising them for use by all other NGOs.