Business Intelligence Reporting: The Comprehensive Guide

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Business intelligence reporting involves preparing and analyzing data with the help of self-service BI tools, extracting valuable insights and sharing reports with stakeholders to make better business decisions while boosting business performance.

The data you collect may come from different data sources such as CRMs, marketing automation systems, HRMS, finance platforms and more. Centralizing these sources into a data warehouse makes it possible to query and manipulate the data to generate metrics and share it in reports.

The two main categories of BI reporting are: managed and ad hoc reporting. Managed reports are prepared by technical experts like data analysts or IT associates. These reports are periodic and reported at specific intervals like day, month or week. Ad hoc reporting allows non-technical teams to create reports on-demand with the help of BI tools eliminating the need for IT teams to create new reports or edit existing ones.

BI Reporting Goals

The primary objective of BI reporting is to provide robust insights to support decision-making and improve business performance. However, analysts and developers shouldn’t be the only ones to slice data and unearth trends and insights.

Even a non-technical person should be able to analyze data and create reports. The decision-makers of an organization need customized reports in their preferred format to understand the data, derive insights, draw conclusions and make the right decisions.

Another goal of BI reporting is to eliminate data silos and create a centralized dataset. When teams work with the same dataset and platform for analysis, there aren’t multiple versions of the truth, analysis is accurate and less time-consuming, and stakeholders can explore the data in one place.

How Does BI Reporting Work?

BI reporting tools pull data from multiple sources, including on-premise and cloud. The reporting tool can identify measures such as sales, revenue, counts and more while applying dimensions like date, purchase order or customer information to create analysis. You can choose dimensions and measures to create charts, graphs and maps in reports using drag-and-drop capabilities.

You can create tables, histograms and pie charts depending on the chosen data and build forecasting models to gauge future predictions. You can update the reports on a schedule or in real time.

Common Capabilities

  • Self-Service BI: Self-service BI helps users prepare and analyze data without writing a single line of code. The tools allow them to filter, slice and dice, sort, compare and visualize data without any help from IT teams. Moreover, modern BI platforms leverage associative engines to provide advanced analytics capabilities, including exploring data in any direction, recalculating analytics and highlighting data relationships.
  • Dashboards and Data Visualization: These features improve data understanding, facilitate collaboration and share information across the organization. Interactive dashboards include rich charts, graphs and maps, making it easier for stakeholders to comprehend and interpret data.
  • Static Reports and Alerting: BI solutions allow users to build and share static reports and set up data-driven real-time alerts.
  • Augmented Analytics: Leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning to automate tasks, suggest insights and analysis, and facilitate real-time analytics.
  • Embedded BI: Integrate business intelligence capabilities within applications, products or processes. Employees and customers can access data and insights within their workflows instead of migrating to a separate BI solution. Thus, it helps users make faster decisions to improve business performance.
  • Mobile BI: Analyze data, share insights and collaborate with stakeholders on a mobile device in offline mode.

Best Practices

  • Identify Your Audience and Their Needs: Define the reporting requirements for different stakeholders in advance. Formulate robust KPIs to guide the team in achieving their objectives.
  • Prepare Your Data: Convert raw data into standardized formats via data replication, ingestion and transformation and store it in repositories like data lakes or data warehouses. This data can then be used to perform advanced analysis.
  • Scalability: Ensure you have a multi-cloud scalable architecture to let users access and share insights between on-premise and cloud deployments while employing robust security measures.
  • Data Governance: Provide a governed data catalog that maintains information about every data source and defines who can take which actions on the given data.
  • Tell Your Data Story: Create compelling visualizations and dashboards to convey important information and leave visual cues to communicate the data story in an engaging way.
  • Iterate and Evolve: Adapt your reporting practices to advances in technology and changes in business requirements.
  • Cultivate Data Literacy: Ensure your teams are data literate to make the best use of the data at hand and create robust reports.

Creating Quality Reports

Define Your Stakeholders

The first step in creating quality BI reports is to answer the question: To whom am I reporting? After creating a list of relevant stakeholders who will use the report, include only the information that is relevant to them based on their needs. Precision is the key while creating reports.

Ensure you include essential KPIs. Adding in non-essential information can create confusion or cause stakeholders to arrive at a wrong conclusion.

Some stakeholders may benefit from monthly reports with detailed metrics, and others may like performance reports with a live data connection to check daily.

Choose the Right Metrics

After you determine the relevant stakeholders, it is imperative to select the right metrics or KPIs for the report. Some factors you should consider while selecting are as follows:

  • Your business goals, are they long-term or short-term?
  • What type of role does the target audience play in decision-making?
  • Which metrics will help you tell a comprehensive data story to empower you to take the right actions?

Data Visualizations

Choose your visualizations to communicate an effective data story. Ensure the visualizations complement your purpose. For example, if you create a client report, ensure that you use colors in conjunction with their brand. Embed logos to make the report look professional.

Also, ensure the usage of space is well-defined to avoid making the report look cluttered. Leverage data filtering capabilities to present high-level details on a single screen and then drill down to access granular information.

Monitor Your Data

Leverage machine learning and artificial intelligence algorithms to add value to a BI report. Managing huge amounts of data is a herculean task as it needs frequent monitoring to identify anomalies that might affect the business. It is imperative for businesses to create data alerts to send notifications for immediate action.

Implement a Data-driven Work Culture

Empower employees to use data while making decisions. Invest in data literacy, which is the ability to read, manipulate and analyze data and make robust conclusions. The ability to communicate data, understand results and put information in perspective are skills everyone in the organization should have. Lastly, invest in a BI tool with a user-friendly interface to create robust reports.

Be willing to adapt and learn. Adapt to changes, monitor processes and find problems fast to tackle them. BI technology continues to evolve as businesses face larger datasets. Make sure you are keeping up with advancements to provide a competitive business advantage.

Primary Benefits

Some important benefits of BI reporting are as follows:

Increase Workflow Speed

Managers, employees and stakeholders often wait for comprehensive reports from the IT department, especially if the organization leverages data from varied sources. This process can take days, which may slow down process workflows.

Centralizing data sources can help non-technical users perform analysis and create ad hoc reports. It also boosts workflow speed and gets things running in no time.

Utilization of Real-Time and Historical Data

Creating a simple presentation out of volumes of data can be challenging, even for experienced managers. However, business intelligence reporting provides centralized data access to perform analyses and generate insights.

BI reporting utilizes real-time and historical data to create sophisticated reports depending on business requirements while increasing efficiency and reducing costs.

Human Resources and Employee Performance Management

BI-centric reports assist in performance management by allowing you to gain centralized access to performance-based metrics. Performance-based KPIs empower you to identify and compare productivity trends and dig into individual performance. They eventually help boost business performance and drive success.

The employee dashboard helps drill down into key performance indicators, including the number of hours worked, training costs, productivity and more. Gaining deeper insights into employee data empowers you to formulate strategies to boost employee performance, productivity and satisfaction.

Streamlined Procurement

If you deal with a heavy turnover of goods and services, BI-based reports play a significant role in streamlining procurement processes. BI reporting offers robust visualizations based on key functions within the department. The procurement dashboard offers a comprehensive view of workflows to find patterns, trends and insights.

With primary KPIs like compliance rate, the number of suppliers and purchase order cycle times at hand, the procurement dashboard focuses on improving supplier relationships, cutting cost overheads and streamlining the procurement cycle.

Forecasting

BI reporting not only focuses on tracking processes but also on forecasting based on artificial intelligence and predictive analytics capabilities. The right decision at the right time can result in successful outcomes and mitigate losses. Reporting can highlight insights from multiple angles that are overlooked otherwise.

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