Reporting means collecting and presenting data so that it can be analyzed.
When we talk about reporting in business intelligence (BI), we are talking about two things. One is reporting strictly defined. The other is “reporting” taken in a more general meaning.
In the first case, reporting is the art of collecting data from various data sources and presenting it to end-users in a way that is understandable and ready to be analyzed. In the second sense, reporting means presenting data and information, so it also includes analysis–in other words, allowing end-users to both see and understand the data, as well as act on it.
Reporting can be classified in many different ways. One is to differentiate reporting by the role of the person(s) preparing the report: managed reporting is reporting prepared by technical personnel such as developers; ad-hoc reporting is instead the realm of the nontechnical end-user. Another way in which reporting can be classified is by identifying the most important features of a report, such as data tables, cross-tab reports, visualization features, etc.
The Goal of Reporting (Strictly Defined)
If the flowchart of business intelligence is to see, understand and act upon data, reporting’s goal is the first–to enable end-users to see data so that they can analyze it and make it understandable through analysis. Reporting deals with data, while analysis is what turns the data into information.
For example, a sales report may include rows representing sales reps and columns showing orders taken, units sold of each major product line, revenue-dollars generated, percentage of target achieved, etc
Benefits of Reporting
Reporting is the necessary prerequisite of analysis; as such, it should be viewed in light of the goal of making data understandable and ready for easy, efficient and accurate analysis.
Collecting and presenting data ready to be analyzed, including historical data that can be tracked over time
Empowering end-users with the knowledge to become experts in their area of business
Having the underlying figures to back up actions and explain decisions
Reporting Best Practices
Prepare your reports with the next step in mind, which is analysis. Format your data in a way that is conducive to quick and intuitive analysis, and name your columns in a way that is both consistent and understandable to the end-users.
If you are the report developer or system administrator, don’t confuse the end-user with too many objects. Work with them to understand what their needs are, and give them a report that is as clean as possible, eliminating clutter and unnecessary pieces of data by carefully selecting the objects end-users can see and report on.
Be mindful about sensitive data and use role-based security, authentication and authorization to grant or deny access to reports, columns and records to selected users or user groups.
Leverage the power of the Web to create reports that are powerful, interactive and easy to navigate, while placing as little a burden as possible on the system.
Place your reporting layer on top of the data sources that are most used in your company. In this sense, a reporting solution that is data-source neutral allows you to bring together data from traditional and non-traditional data sources, such as databases, Web services, RSS feeds, Excel, etc.