Business intelligence reporting is a key feature that is often the driving point of a BI implementation. Its considered one of the five styles of BI, but most often the one that touches most points in an organization.
Despite all of the advances in technology, many companies still use Excel or some other desktop app as the front line reporting tool. Data is dumped from widespread data sources, consolidated manually, and then tweaked in Excel for weekly or monthly data deliveries. While Excel has a lot of advantages, its strengths are not for a enterprise wide reporting system. It makes standardization hard, can be extremely manual, and you often don’t have a “single version of the truth”.
Reports are a key lifeblood for most companies and organizations today. This is why most solutions focus on at least reproducing or matching existing data and report structures before looking at other areas like scorecards, analysis, OLAP, or other analytics. While these other pieces are important strategically, it’s the reports that are often the operational keystone of the BI system and will be used by the most users.
Using an enterprise wide system has the advantages of building a dedicated data warehouse to store the data. Everyone will be using a centralized source, so the data is consistent. Common or frequently produced reports can be formatted once, and often automated. You can use templates to ensure consistency.
If you are evaluating BI systems, obviously the reporting piece is a key feature. All of the major vendors have highly refined report authoring and creation pieces. Some things to consider for a new technology include ease of use, flexibility, standardization options, robustness, and distribution abilities. If the software is hard to use, rigid, or can’t get the reports into the right users hands, then they will clamor for the old system. Understanding the scope and difficulty of migration and transition is important as well. You need to make sure you can replicate your current ways of providing data, or the technology should provide a better way.
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