Nowadays, business intelligence reporting is heating up. Both the investment community and the IT circle are paying close attention to big data and business intelligence. But do you know what problems BI reporting can solve and what kind of BI reporting tools can be considered good? In this article, I will walk you through the definition of Business Intelligence reporting and articulate the Top 10 Key features of BI reporting tools.

1. What is Business Intelligence (BI)?

BI and data analytics are hot words in the industry now. Business Intelligence(BI) is a process that incorporates analytics, data management, reporting tools, and various methodologies for visualizing, analyzing data, and delivering insightful information that helps executives, managers, and employees make informed business decisions. The ultimate purpose of Business Intelligence is to drive better business decisions that enable organizations to improve efficiency, increase revenue, and gain competitive advantages over business rivals. 

Business Intelligence(BI) is a process that incorporates analytics, data management, reporting tools, and various methodologies for visualizing, analyzing data, and delivering insightful information that helps executives, managers, and employees make informed business decisions.
Business Intelligence

Business intelligence (BI) helps organizations transform data into valuable insights, thereby providing a basis for decision-making.

In business intelligence, data should be transformed into value.
How data is transformed in Business Intelligence

2. What is BI Reporting?

It is worth noting that reports are different from analytics. In reporting process, users can transform data into useful information with various charts and tables and further discover insights. In other words, you can view reporting as dynamic data plus various styles.

By definition, reporting is a basic part of Business Intelligence, allowing you to collect, extract and dynamically display data with different types of visualization.

You can view BI  reporting as dynamic data plus various styles.
BI Reporting

The types of reports can vary, depending on their interactivity. Static reports cannot be changed by the end-users, while interactive reports allow you to navigate the report through various hierarchies and visualization elements. Interactive reports support drilling down or drilling through multiple data levels at the click of a mouse. As a result, you can also use interactive reports to navigate, sort, filter, and view the data to deal with your specific needs. 

What makes BI reports stand out? The answer is that BI reports combine the advantages of BI and reports. As mentioned earlier, BI is very strong in analysis and forecasting, which makes up for the shortcomings of the report in this regard.

3. BI Reporting and BI are Different

Many people may confuse Business Reporting software with BI software, refer them to the same thing. But the fact is that they are serving totally different business needs. 

Differences between BI software and BI reporting tools

Briefly, professional Business Reporting software focuses on data display, as typically an application within a business intelligence software suite. In contrast, a BI tool emphasizes data analysis since the BI tool is often comprised of features such as reporting, monitoring, analysis, and prediction.

In addition, BI software is mainly for business departments and data analysts, the key to BI software is ‘data + business understanding.’ 

  • The ‘data’ part is the statistics and data display. 
  • The ‘business understanding’ is realizing in-depth data analysis and smart data forecasting via analysis and prediction functions such as data mining, predictive modeling, and so on. It helps you understand why the statuses are the way they are and how to improve performance.

However, BI software is weaker in making complex and customized reporting styles, and sometimes in lack of printing and pushing function, compared with reporting tools.

BI reporting tools are primarily for IT departments or report developers. They use BI reporting software to make reports that show you the past and current status.  For instance, complex reports such as electronic invoices, process sheets, receipts, etc., can also be conveniently generated by Reporting software. 

Complex reports such as electronic invoices, process sheets, receipts, etc., can also be conveniently generated by Reporting software.
Invoice (made with FineReport)

Take FineReport as an example. As a well-qualified business reporting tool, FineReport provides three types of BI reports helping you deal with any reporting demands: General Report,  Aggregation Report, and Dashboard. 

Besides, BI reporting tools have powerful export and print features that support export or print the reports into different formats such as Word, Excel, and PDF. These particular functions make BI reporting tools distinctive in reporting work. 

4. The Benefits of BI Reporting

What makes BI reports stand out? The answer is that BI reports combine the advantages of BI and reports. As mentioned earlier, BI is very strong in analysis and forecasting, which makes up for the shortcomings of the report in this regard.

The comprehensive BI report will provide you with complete and accurate information about the business situation and provide you with wise strategic recommendations. BI reports are dynamic, interactive and intuitive. No matter who you are, you can get key information at a glance from the BI report.

5. How do BI Reporting Tools work?

Business Intelligence developers and report writers can use BI reporting tools to access data sources, visualize data, display formats, create parameters, queries, and so on. BI reporting tools simplify the entire process from data collection to obtaining business insights. Choosing the right BI reporting software can help you manage your entire job in a few clicks

For example, the server of FineReport is primarily used to read and parse the template created by the designer and convert the template into an HTML page. That way, users can view, modify, and print data through browsers such as IE and Firefox. Simultaneously, a robust caching mechanism and clustering mechanism are built-in, which supports extensive data volume calculations and concurrent processing of many users, and innovatively adopts flash technology, supporting zero-client accurate printing.

6. Top 10 Key Features of BI Reporting Software in 2021

Based on the study of the evaluation criteria of Gartner Magic Quadrant for analytics and Business Intelligence Platforms, I have summarized the top 10 key features of BI reporting tools for your reference.

Overall, as users’ data sources become more extensive, their preferences for BI reporting are changing. They prefer self-service development, interactive dashboards, and self-service data exploration. To put it bluntly, users increasingly want to do their own data analysis without having to find support from the IT department.

5.1 Management, security, and architecture of the BI reporting platform

Good Business intelligence reporting tools can achieve platform security, manage platform users, monitor access and usage, optimize performance, support operation in different operating systems, and ensure the system’s high availability and disaster recovery.

As a part of enterprise informatization, there are many reasons for business intelligence software to do separate management and disaster recovery.

On the one hand, governments, Internet companies, and large enterprises attach great importance to informatization construction and require separate maintenance.

On the other hand, BI reporting systems have gradually become the support of business management decisions and play an increasing role. Enterprises require BI reporting systems to provide stable services throughout the day.

5.2 Metadata management

Users can centrally manage metadata, including searching, extracting, processing, storing, sharing metadata, and publishing metadata externally.

The metadata is focused on the dimensions, indicators, hierarchies, measures, and other data required for business analysis. It also includes some processed data, such as KPI, personal sales, single product sales, and other data. Simultaneously, the system supports administrators to associate and integrate metadata processed and stored by users with the underlying data connected to the BI reporting software.

5.3 Analytics dashboards

Create highly interactive dashboards and content with visual exploration operations and embedded advanced geospatial analysis.

The analytics dashboards can also be understood as interactive chart components, such as common bar charts, line charts, scatter plots, etc., as well as advanced rectangular tree charts, multi-layered donut charts, administrative geographic maps, and custom maps, heat maps, flow maps, and more. The main point here is that these charts should be built in the Business Intelligence reporting tool, and at the same time, it supports business staff to simply drag and drop to achieve chart display. From the time being, this trend is quite obvious.

BI reporting tools support excellent visualization effects. Dashboard is one you should never miss.
Highway monitoring dashboard made with FineReport
Manufacturing industry dashboard made with FineReport

5.4 Interactive visual exploration

Explore and analyze data with a series of common and special charts.

These conventional charts are mainly pie charts, line charts, etc., while special charts refer to special visual effects such as heat maps, flow maps, rectangular tree maps, and GIS geographic information maps. Of course, in addition to the richness and beauty of charts, you also need to pay attention to the interactive operation.

Over excellent 50 charts built in FineReport
Drill-down map made with FineReport

If you want to learn more about chart types, this article is for your reference: Top 16 Types of Chart in Data Visualization.

5.5 Support mobile display

Users can publish the analysis content of BI reporting tools to mobile terminal devices. They can use the mobile device’s own functions to implement touch operations, photos, videos, positioning, etc., of BI pages.

Mobile reporting is a big bright spot in the BI market right now. The preference and needs may differ across companies. Some people pay attention to multiple operating systems. For instance, developers should support Android and IOS versions synchronously. Some people pay attention to functions and interaction effects, such as data collection, image and video collection, positioning, linkage, and drilling on mobile devices. However, please pay more attention to mobile terminals’ security, and mobile BI must ensure corporate data security.

Mobile reporting

5.6 Embed analysis content

Support the seamless integration of BI analysis pages into business processes or business systems, and support the direct creation and modification of analysis content in business software and management of the BI reporting platform.

The seamless embedding of BI analysis content mainly considers several aspects. The first is to achieve single sign-on, which means that users do not have to log in to the business system, and then log in to the BI system again, and the system can automatically complete multi-platform authentication. The second is permission integration. The BI reporting platform must provide an integration solution that allows users to view BI analysis within the permission in the business software interface. The third is UI integration. As part of the components embedded in the business system, the BI reporting platform itself should have the ability to easily modify the UI so that the embedded BI interface is integrated into the business system.

5.7 Embedded advanced analytics

Users can easily use the advanced analysis functions built into the BI reporting tool or import and integrate advanced analysis models developed externally.

The BI reporting platform comes with an advanced analysis model and algorithm model in popular understanding, allowing users to drag data and automatically run the model to conclude. Most BI products have not yet supported embedded advanced analytics, and a few support integration with R language, judging from the current BI product strategy on the market.

A common scenario is that the user develops an algorithm model by himself or has accumulated advanced analysis models for many years and then connects the data processed by the analysis model to a BI reporting system for visual analysis and display. That is, BI reporting tools are still for data analysis and graphical display.

5.8 Self-service data preparation

Users themselves drag and drop data from different sources to create analysis models. The system automatically processes the data through intelligent analysis and automatic correlation, including structured and unstructured data.

Self-service data preparation is essentially making the BI reporting system automatically handle the logical association between data. Unfortunately, it is still difficult for many BI tools to achieve this, but the BI reporting tool like FineReport on the market has opened up new solutions. In addition to automatically associating and escaping data, you can also manually set the association. Meanwhile, after the IT staff initially processes the data, the business people can process the data again through the SPA spiral analysis function.

5.9 Publish and share analysis content

Allow users to manipulate and publish BI analysis content through various file output types and distribution methods.

Users can share the content and decision of BI analysis through BI reporting platform. In short, the BI analysis page I made can be shared with others, and I can also edit and modify the content shared by others, and we can communicate with each other.

The biggest value here is the reuse and co-creation of BI analysis. That is, you can share the BI analysis data, conclusions, and your own analysis model to improve the collaboration efficiency of enterprise employees.

5.10 Ease of use and visualization

It is easy to manage and deploy business intelligence reporting software, create and share BI analysis, and easy to visualize data.

The professionalism and ease of use of BI reporting software are two aspects that are difficult to balance. The ease of use of BI reporting software must consider the business staff’s software operation level and the acceptable training costs in this regard. I think ease of use is more about providing operational tips and easier interaction.

However, the necessary training is still needed. After all, data analysis itself is a professional matter and requires corresponding skills.

6. Using FineReport to Implement BI Reporting

I collected a bi reporting tools list before. Today, I want to recommend FineReport, which is a professional BI reporting tool designed for the enterprise. 

6.1 Excel-like interface, no coding needed.

bi reporting software interface
Excel like interface

As mentioned above, most companies are still using Excel to implement the reporting system. And no matter the report developers or the business staff, they are accustomed to the Excel interface. Therefore, there is no doubt that an excel-like reporting tool is the best to promote digital transformation in the company.

6.2 Innovative Data Entry 

You can import data from various sources through BI reporting software such as FineReport

FineReport provides rich widgets that can make it easy to massive input data via forms into databases, with innovative functions such as data validation and temporary storage.

6.3 Powerful Decision-making Platform 

The web report portal for enterprise reporting provides a very secure environment for reports management, access controls, automatic report, and so on.

6.4 Easy Deployment and Integration

Easy Deployment and Integration

FineReport is a 100% JAVA software that can be seamlessly integrated with various systems via independent or embedded deployment. As a resule, you can show your reports in your existing business system such as ERP, CRM. 

6.5 Mobile BI Application

FineMobile supports business performance monitoring and data updating at any time and any place, and on any mobile device. In this way, you can monitor the performance and make wise instant decisions.

6.6 Real-time Reporting

real time reporting

FineReport supports real-time display when the related data updated in the business systems. The real-time report can be checked on the browser side and sent to the set email address once any change occurs. FineReport is free for personal use, without user and features limits. You can download it for a free trial.

Free Download

All in all, BI and reporting are designed to meet different needs in the business. Business intelligence is an increasingly popular topic, but we still cannot forget that reports are the basis of data analysis. FineReport provides powerful functions in both business intelligence and reporting. Interested in? Try it now. The personal version is free!

Explore Other Resources

Reporting Tools | 7 min read
Do you know the differences between reporting and analytics? This article illuminates in terms of definition, purposes, methods, and output examples.
BI Tools | 7 min read
Business intelligence for marketing plays an important role in topping in the newly data-driven industry. Click to check details in BI for marketing.
BI Tools | 8 min read
This article reviews the definition, examples, and capabilities of business intelligence solutions, and the challenges and solutions companies may face.