Business Intelligence (BI) Reporting

A Guide To The Basics

BI reporting—preparing, analyzing, and portraying business metrics—is fundamental to every business. This article will walk you through the basics you need to know. BI Reporting is divided into two categories in business intelligence. Managed reporting occurs when a technical employee such as an IT associate or data analyst prepares the data for non-technical users. Ad-hoc reporting in a BI platform allows non-technical users to create reports from scratch or edit pre-existing reports without having to make requests from IT. Reports allow business users to see data trends over time, slice and dice tables to discover relationships between variables. Smart BI tools have features like Natural Language Processing (NLP) so users can query the data using questions without coding. Reports can take various formats: tables, spreadsheets, and PDFs are all common outputs. Visualizations can include charts, graphs, or histograms. Reports can also be customized dashboards accessed through a web browser. With current technology, BI reports can be automated, and run on a pre-determined schedule.

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How BI reporting works

BI reporting tools pull and read data from your company’s data sources, on premises and in the cloud. The reporting tool is able to identify measurements such as sales, revenue, inventory counts, etc. and apply dimensions such as date, purchase order, or customer information to create analyses. Users can choose dimensions and measurements using drag-and-drop functionality to create reports. Your team can create tables, histograms or pie charts depending on the data chosen and create forecasting models. They can also create dashboards with these charts and have them update on a schedule or in near real-time. There are a variety of possibilities and capabilities in BI reporting, and Tableau offers demonstrations and training videos to learn more about how BI reporting works.

The goal of BI reporting

The goal of BI reporting is to provide data insights to support decision making. However, analysts and IT developers shouldn’t be the only ones with the ability and responsibility to slice data to uncover insights and trends. Company decision-makers need personalized and organized reports in their preferred formats. They should be able to look at the report, understand the data, draw a conclusion, and make informed decisions. Another goal of BI reporting is to eliminate data silos and create a single source of truth. When teams work with the same datasets and use the same platform for analysis, there are no longer multiple versions of the truth. Data analysis is more accurate, takes less time, and decision makers are able to explore and edit their data in one place. However, these goals cannot be accomplished without a BI reporting tool.

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Why you need BI reporting tools

There are several benefits to creating a BI reporting process in your company. Now, non-technical users can create their own reports using self-service BI tools. BI tools can make it easier for employees to use data and gain a granular understanding of important business metrics. Teams can use reporting data to make better decisions, and share the data with others. Leaders can use business intelligence data to support their decisions. BI reports also help companies see the bigger picture by aggregating data from multiple departments and allowing users to interact with that data. All of this can be completed in less time because big data reporting tools are designed to cut down on time spent analyzing data for reporting. BI platforms can also publish reports on an automated schedule, customized according to security permissions (Not every BI platform can perform these functions, however, and you should evaluate BI tools according to your needs).

4 features you should look for when evaluating BI reporting tools

There are many BI software platforms available but not every tool will fit your business needs. Choose a platform that offers:

  • Plug and play functionality. The right platform fits within your existing data infrastructure and works with your security and governance environment without additional infrastructure.
  • Intuitive user experience. Non-analysts should be able to easily query and produce the answers they’re looking for.
  • Customizable dashboards. Platform allows all users to create visually-driven insights at-a-glance.
  • Scalability. As your business grows, the platform is flexible enough to grow with you.

For more information about finding the best BI platform for your company, read our evaluation guide of modern BI analytics platforms. .

BI Reporting Best Practices

While BI reporting will be specific to your company’s needs, there are some noted best practices in business intelligence reporting. Keep these in mind as you develop your reporting process:

  • Choose the correct audience for the reports and work with IT to set up permissions
  • Prepare the report with analysis in mind. How can this report be easily understood?
  • Learn how to create effective data visualizations
  • Be willing to adapt your BI reporting process to advances in technology and changes in business needs

You can start driving change in your organization with business intelligence. Learn more about data culture and see what data-driven companies can accomplish.