Business Intelligence Reporting: A Complete Overview

Benefits of JReportBusiness intelligence is a system of various solutions used to garner insights from different types of data. Driving business decision making is the primary use of business intelligence and is accomplished by utilizing different techniques to understand historical, live, and predictive data. In this bi defined page, we’ll delve deeper into the purpose of BI and specifically, it’s relation to an important element of BI, business intelligence reporting.

What is Reporting?

BI Reporting IconReporting is a foundational part of business intelligence which focuses on visualizing data in different types of visualizations such as tables, graphs, and charts. Visualizations within the context of reporting are a graphical representation of data, the goal of which is to accurately present information in a form that is digestible to end users.

In the past, visualizations created for the purposes of reporting were static, meaning data could not be manipulated on the visualization itself. As the needs of business have changed over time, so too has reporting evolved. In the fast changing world of business today, more and more interactivity has become essential to executives needing to make quick business decisions, on the fly.

Data manipulation, such as drilling down to different semantic layers of data, slicing and dicing of information through sorting and filtering, and a vast array of others, which in the past was reserved only for technically experienced data analysts and scientists, can now be put in the hands of non-technical end users either through an external tool or within an application itself.

In recent years, end user interactivity has been taken a step further with ad hoc reporting. Ad hoc reporting allows end users to create reports from scratch as well as further edit and manipulate pre-built or canned reports. The ability to create, edit, and save reports for future use has empowered end users more than ever before allowing for quicker visualization of pertinent business data.

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More advanced reporting systems allow for paginated reports, pixel perfect reports, as well as a variety of delivery methods meant to make development teams and administrative staff’s life easier. Paginated reports are reports that are separated into different pages allowing them to be easily printed. Pixel perfect reports are reports where each individual element of the report can be customized down to the pixel level in both size and location, and are often used for situations which require detail perfect reports such as tax or regulatory documents.

Another large part of reporting is the ability to deliver reports in a variety of different formats, such as the ability to export to .pdf, .csv or excel, send via email, or upload to FTP as well as many others. The ability schedule reports to run at a given time or time period is also an important feature which allows teams to run and send reports without manual creation or intervention. Report bursting is another essential feature of enterprise reporting where a single report can be sent to multiple users with different levels of data permission allowing them to receive a report customized to the data they need to are allowed to see, this saves the time and energy needed to create individual reports for every person with a different permission set.

What is Business Intelligence (BI)?

Business Intelligence consists of a variety of tools and methods that allow businesses to collect, observe, and present data. Businesses are able to source data from external and internal systems, assemble the data for analysis, generate and execute queries against the collected data to create reports and dashboards for decision makers. Visualizations within these reports and dashboards are powerful statistical tools that empower decision makers to action data quicker. These visual aids can present data in many ways which allow for deeper dives into different data resources.

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Why Do Software Vendors Use Business Intelligence?

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Embedded BI tools such a JReport are used in the applications of software vendors for a couple of reasons. Compared to building a BI solution from scratch, embedding an analytics tool is a more efficient, cost-effective option that can reduce the number of development cycles needed for implementation, giving an organization more time to emphasize focus on core capabilities. Embedding an analytics solution increases product value as advanced reporting and dashboards enable users to make the right decision at the right time. This can give software vendors a competitive edge over their competitors who may have only basic visualizations and a small number of reports.

The Goal of Reporting in BI

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Any business intelligence goal should be defined as enabling the ability to see, analyze, understand, and make critical decisions on data. The goal of business intelligence reporting is to enable end-users to observe detail level data in a way that it can be analyzed and understood giving users the ability to turn data into actionable information.

An example of this in action would be a simple sales report. A sales report may include rows that present the different names of account managers or sales representatives, and columns which present different sales data such as total orders to date, units sold, units shipped, total revenue, a percentage of quota attained to date. If a report is created in a way which allows for easy analysis the data presented in this report can be analyzed for decision-making purposes, allowing for a sales manager, for example, to discuss potential future orders with reps that have low revenue to date.

Reporting is an early step in the process of data processing. It presents data in an interactive fashion to turn it into actionable information. There can be many levels of interactivity within a report such as the ability to drill down, sort, and filter, as well as additional capabilities such as self-service editing which allows you to further explore your data for more insights. Business intelligence reporting is most beneficial when it is designed to help track and measure your strategic business goals. Other use cases for reporting tools include tracking key performance indicators, maintaining regulatory compliance, or even measuring goals between different departments or applications.

The Benefits of BI Reporting

As mentioned the main goal of business intelligence reporting is to make data easy to understand so that accurate analysis can be efficiently carried out. Reporting is a necessary prerequisite of the analysis stage. BI collects and presents data that is ready to be analyzed. Data also includes historical information that cannot be traced over time. Business Intelligence reporting empowers the end-users with the information to become experts in their corresponding area of business. Also, underlying figures in reports can be presented to backup actions and explain decision making behaviors.

How Does BI Reporting Work?

Report developers and report writers use tools such as JReport Designer, our report design tool, to distinguish elements such as data sources, display formats, graphics, filters, and other options that are essential for report presentation. Enterprise reporting solutions, such as JReport, also allow end-users to create reports and dashboards directly from web application interfaces using ad-hoc data resources specified by developers. Users are therefore given the ability to generate speedy data-driven decisions through building report components, collecting various data, and designing ad hoc reports. Reports can be published to a reporting engine, such as JReport Server, which extracts data and generates reports.

JReport, the Leader in Embedded BI Reporting

JReport’s embedded analytics solution features all the tools you would expect from an enterprise bi reporting solution, with the added ability to be embedded within other applications. The main use case of JReport is to enable software vendors to embed analytics into their own applications. Software providers often provide embedded BI to their users as a competitive advantage by empowering users to analyze significant amounts of data on the fly with little to no help from IT.

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