It never fails, a business process as sure as the sunrise. As we're a reporting software company, the number one reason people come to us is to get a reporting product so they can sort through their massive amounts of data and turn it into reports, charts, graphs, and dashboards for reporting, document generation, mail merge, and everything in between. And this is where the fun begins.
One thing no one thinks about when starting their company is how to store their data. Sure, most make a few Excel documents or setup some SQL Servers, but it's amazing how fast data piles up and how fast spreadsheets get packed on top of one another and how fast Servers are filled, added to, copied over, and rewritten all without a sense of what you might have to go through one day to get that data out. Add on top of that a lack of naming conventions and even consistent data entry and you'll find yourself with a database nigh unusable.
The fun really begins when someone tries to create reports, charts, or dashboards out of a data set like that. Nothing makes sense. This is why reporting is often considered a technical task, because it requires a very thorough understanding of how the data is stored and structured. Couple this with query languages and select statements, and you've got yourself something no casual user would ever want to tackle.
I can't stress enough the importance of properly storing data from the beginning. It may be the last thing on your mind, but you'll be kicking yourself months or years down the road when you have to go back and do what you should have done in the beginning. Do yourself a favor and setup some data management standards from the start.