Business intelligence reporting, also known as BI reporting, presents the opportunity to generate intelligent reports by utilizing contemporary BI reporting tools and establishing a comprehensive practice of intelligent reporting. Consequently, regardless of the particular field or industry, the implementation of BI and BI Reporting can contribute to the overall advancement and profitability of a business.

To illustrate the business-boosting advantages offered by BI tools and BI Reporting, let us delve into the advantages of BI reporting, the fundamental characteristics of BI, and the essential functionalities that companies can employ to gain a competitive edge and maintain their success in today’s fiercely competitive digital market. We will conclude by providing valuable suggestions for crafting exceptional BI reports that surpass your business objectives.

1. What is Business Intelligence (BI)?

Let’s start by clarifying the definition of 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 the 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, BI 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 BI reporting 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 reporting stand out? The answer is that BI reporting combines the advantages of BI and reporting. As mentioned earlier, BI is very strong in analysis and forecasting, which makes up for the shortcomings of the reporting in this regard.

3. The Differences Between BI Reporting and BI

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

The Differences Between BI Reporting and BI
Differences between BI software and BI reporting tools

Briefly, professional BI 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 BI reporting styles, and sometimes in lack of printing and pushing functions, 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 BI Reporting software. 

Complex reports such as electronic invoices, process sheets, receipts, etc., can also be conveniently generated by Reporting software.
Invoice (made with FineReport)
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Take FineReport as an example. As a well-qualified BI reporting tool, FineReport provides three types of BI reports that help you deal with any reporting demands: General Report,  Aggregation Report, and Dashboard. 

Besides, BI reporting tools have powerful export and print features that support exporting or printing 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

Having elucidated the significance of BI reporting within the realm of business intelligence, it is now opportune to examine the array of benefits that can accrue to an organization through a meticulous and strategic approach to reporting.

The principal objective of BI reporting is to furnish comprehensive data that is readily accessible and interpretable, thereby offering actionable insights. Now, let us explore the vital advantages in question:

4.1 Accelerating Workflow Efficiency

The pace of work often becomes hindered as managers, employees, and key stakeholders await comprehensive BI feedback presentations from the IT department or SQL developers. This delay is particularly prominent when an enterprise consolidates data from multiple sources, resulting in a process that can take days and impede workflow. Such delays hinder decision-making, impede analysis, and impact every department.

One of the primary advantages a company can enjoy by using BI reporting is centralizing all data sources into a unified platform. This can be accomplished through the use of BI reporting tools such as FineReport. FineReport can be seamlessly integrated with mainstream relational/non-relational databases, big data platforms, local ERP/OA systems, and Excel data. Data from different sources can be gathered in one BI report.

FineReport can be seamlessly integrated with mainstream relational/non-relational databases
. FineReport can be seamlessly integrated with mainstream relational/non-relational databases
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4.2 Applicability Across Industries and Departments

The objective of creating successful BI reports encompasses cost reduction and increased efficiency. Each business report example may focus on a specific area such as finance, sales, or marketing, tailored to the specific needs of a network or department.

For instance, a sales BI report can serve as a compass, guiding the sales team along the right path. The provided image illustrates a sales performance dashboard that offers a holistic view of sales targets and insights regarding the team’s progress in meeting individual objectives. Ultimately, the primary aim is to enhance customer lifetime value while reducing acquisition costs.

BI reporting examples
BI Report Example (made by FineReport)

Financial BI reporting can be effectively managed through various features that simplify complexities and provide a comprehensive overview of an organization’s financial information. The financial dashboard template showcased above concentrates on evaluating the efficiency of capital spending. The balance sheet offers an overview of key metrics that can easily identify trends and shed light on how critical assets are being managed.

financial BI reporting

4.3 Leveraging Real-Time and Historical Data

Traditional reporting methods struggle to effectively utilize and comprehend the vast amount of gathered data. Transforming voluminous information into a concise presentation proves challenging, even for experienced managers. However, BI reporting streamlines this process by offering an online reporting tool that not only processes and generates relevant insights but also provides access to historical data.

HR dashboard: attendanc & salary BI reporting
HR Reporting Example

Another crucial aspect to consider is the utilization of real-time data, which can be achieved by the real time reporting features of BI reports. For example, in FineReport, you can always get up-to-the-minute BI reports when the related data is updated in the business systems. That means that organizations can leverage the latest data, such as increasing sales through event-based marketing, managing financial portfolios in real-time, and responding more quickly and accurately to public health crises.

4.4 Enhancing Operational Efficiency and Predictive Analysis

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) serve as vital metrics for evaluating and measuring success in any serious business. While numerous KPI examples exist for strategic adoption, it is the accurate tracking and analysis that yield profitable results. Business intelligence and BI reporting encompass more than just kpi tracking; they involve forecasting through predictive analytics and AI, enabling informed decisions that save both time and costs. BI Reporting offers multiple perspectives, providing insights that might otherwise go unnoticed.

KPI Dashboard by FineReport, the BI Reporting tool
KPI Dashboard created by FineReport
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4.5 Informed Strategic Decision-Making

Whether holding the position of CEO, executive, or team manager, great power comes with great responsibility. Seniority in the corporate hierarchy requires formulating critical strategies and making impactful choices that shape the business. Naturally, decisions of this magnitude should not be taken lightly. This is where BI-based reporting tools prove invaluable.

When it comes to senior decision-making and strategy formulation, leveraging digital data becomes essential for guidance. BI reports are intuitive, visually appealing, and offer a wealth of relevant data, enabling the identification of trends, strengths, weaknesses, and groundbreaking insights with ease.

Whether streamlining budgets, devising targeted marketing campaigns, improving internal processes, or any other goal, harnessing BI reporting empowers swift, informed decision-making and the establishment of actionable milestones or benchmarks based on reliable information.

The customizable nature of modern data analytic tools ensures the creation of dashboards tailored to specific needs, goals, and preferences, significantly enhancing the senior decision-making process.

4.6 Streamlined Procurement Processes

One of the primary advantages of BI reporting is its ability to present digestible information that unveils logical patterns and insights, ultimately streamlining critical areas within a company. This advantage is particularly significant for businesses with high turnovers of goods or services, often requiring a procurement department.

The efficiency of your procurement processes directly impacts the overall success and sustainability of your business, permeating through every core aspect of the organization. Business intelligence reporting systems facilitate the streamlining of procurement strategies by offering clear and concise visualizations based on key functions within the department.

The depicted procurement dashboard exemplifies a visually balanced approach, providing an instant overview of essential metrics necessary for improving procurement processes.

By focusing on three primary KPIs—compliance rate, number of suppliers, and purchase order cycle time—this invaluable BI dashboard aims to enhance supplier relationships, reduce unnecessary costs, and streamline the procurement cycle, among other initiatives.

Sample of Procurement dashboard by BI Reporting tools

Working with interactive dashboards empowers you to confidently summarize your procurement department’s activities, catalyzing success and building brand awareness—an invaluable asset in the digital age.

4.7 Enhanced Data Utilization

One of the most notable and impactful advantages of BI reporting analytics for businesses is its ability to extract maximum value from data. In today’s rapidly evolving digital landscape, where data is generated at an exponential rate, discerning truly valuable insights and metrics can be a daunting task. Intelligent data analytics may seem like an insurmountable challenge given the abundance of information and limited time available.

Throughout this article, we have touched on this topic, but the enhanced utilization of data deserves a closer examination. To illustrate this concept practically, it is important to consider the key features and functionalities of modern BI reporting:

  • Unrestricted Data Access: Advanced data dashboards are designed to be accessible across a wide range of mobile devices, enabling non-restricted 24/7 access to crucial trends, metrics, and insights. This empowers users to make informed, data-driven decisions anytime and anywhere, ultimately enhancing productivity.
  • Data Precision: Utilizing highly visual and targeted key performance indicators (KPIs), modern BI tools put you in control of your data, ensuring that the metrics you receive are 100% relevant to your business’s ongoing success. These intuitive tools serve as highly effective data curation and filtration systems, enabling accurate decision-making and eliminating time wasted on redundant data.
  • Inclusion within the Organization: The user-friendly functionality of BI reporting means that technical expertise is not a prerequisite for reaping the benefits of smart data management. Customizable dashboards allow each user to tailor their experience to specific needs, extracting meaningful insights from dynamic KPIs. This empowers individuals throughout the organization to improve their outcomes and capabilities with data analytics, thereby benefiting the entire organization. Today’s dashboards are inclusive, enhancing the overall value of your organization’s data.
  • Data Storytelling Abilities: The ability to present data in a compelling and relevant manner allows for effective communication with various stakeholders, whether they are internal employees or external partners. Smart dashboards facilitate data storytelling, making it widely accessible.

By harnessing the potential of smart data analytics and utilizing the aforementioned features, businesses can unlock the full value of their data, make informed decisions, drive productivity, and effectively communicate insights to stakeholders.

5. How does BI Reporting 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 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.

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6. Top 10 Key Features of BI Reporting

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 reports 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 data analysis without having to find support from the IT department.

6.1 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.

6.2 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.

6.3 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. For 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
Manufacturing industry dashboard made with FineReport
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6.4 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
Over excellent 50 charts built in FineReport
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.

6.5 Support Mobile Display

Users can publish the analysis content of BI reporting tools to mobile terminal devices. They can use the mobile device’s 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 preferences 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 BI Reporting
Mobile reporting

6.6 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 reporting BI interface is integrated into the business system.

6.7 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.

6.8 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.

6.9 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 decisions of BI analysis through the 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 analysis model to improve the collaboration efficiency of enterprise employees.

6.10 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.

7. 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. 

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7.1 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.

7.2 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.

7.3 Powerful Decision-making Platform 

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

7.4 Easy Deployment and Integration

Easy Deployment and Integration of BI Reporting tools-FineReport

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

7.5 Mobile BI Application

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

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7.6 Real-Time Reporting

real time BI reporting

FineReport supports real-time reporting display when the related data is 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 feature limits. You can download it for a free trial.

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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!

Feel free to make an appointment for a live demo with our product experts. We will be more clear about your needs and see how FineReport can help you and your organization transform data into value.

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Keen to explore the full potential of BI tools? Dive in with our comprehensive guide:
Top BI Tools: A Comprehensive Guide for 2024

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