Is There a Difference Between Reporting and Business Intelligence?

What is the difference between reporting and business intelligence?

To some, there’s little distinction between the two. After all, business intelligence can look like a report. If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck—right?

Reporting and business intelligence aren’t the same thing. The two serve very different purposes. Let’s take a look at each and then some tools that can help you transition from reporting into business intelligence to boost your company’s competitiveness.

Reports: A Look at the Past

Think back to all the reports you gave in school. What defined a book report, a history report, or a science report? All the reports that you delivered during your academic career were reports on the past. They were about books you read, not the books you might read given your interests. History reports looked at an event, a time, or a culture. They did not project future events or potential cultural shifts based on trends.

The same goes for business reports. Reports generated in a business setting provide data on past events. An accounts receivable report, for example, provides a detailed list of open receivables and aging receivables. It does not predict next year’s receivables given this year’s patterns and trends.

Reports are quite useful in a business setting. They can provide factual data for a board of directors’ meeting, for example, or the statistics on sales by quarter. But they do not go as deeply or as far as business intelligence.

Business Intelligence: Data and Analysis

Now, this is where reporting and business intelligence diverge. Business intelligence takes the data found in reports many steps further by creating a framework and story for the data, allowing for people to interpret and use that data to make better decisions.

Business intelligence may take historical views, which are akin to data reporting, but they can also incorporate predictive analysis, too. Common uses of business intelligence include:

  • Reporting on current or past data
  • Processing analytical data
  • Data mining
  • Process mining
  • Complex event or situation processing
  • Business performance management and benchmarking
  • Predictive analytics, or the use of current and historic facts to make predictions from data
  • Prescriptive analytics, or suggesting different choices based on complex analysis of existing data

Big Data No Problem for Business Intelligence Systems

Another main difference between reporting and business intelligence is the amount of data that the two systems can handle. Reporting handles standard amounts of data and can draw limited data streams into reports to produce final documents.

Business intelligence systems can draw from multiple data sources and streams. Some even synthesize both qualitative data, such as comments received through customer service portals, as well as quantitative data from traditional sources such as inventory counts, accounting programs, and similar software.

BI systems were created to handle larger amounts of data, and as such, can offer more robust reporting, too. They can produce standard reports but so much more, so if you have a business intelligence system, you’ve got reporting needs covered, too.

Helping People Do Jobs Better or Make Better Choices

Another way to think about the difference between reporting and business intelligence is how they are used in the workplace. Reports provide basic data that help people do their jobs better. An inventory report tells the warehouse manager what they need to order to fill inventory gaps. A sales report tells the sales manager which employee sold the most last month, quarter, or year.

But reports don’t tell the warehouse manager why orange-handled garden trowels sell better than green-handled ones, or why one employee constantly outsells the others. That’s where business intelligence comes into the picture.

By comparing multiple data streams and analyzing many metrics, business intelligence may be able to add predictive analytics to the warehouse report. If gardening tools sell rapidly during several weeks in March and April, the business intelligence system may suggest demand cycles so the warehouse manager can order plenty of tools in advance of demand.

Likewise, the sales manager may see a pattern related to the high producing salesperson and the territory she’s assigned to and realize through the story told in the business intelligence reports that rotating salespeople among various territories might enable others on the team to shine, too.

Agility and Flexibility in One Tool

The whole purpose of business intelligence software is to provide useful insights that can help people not only do their jobs better, but smarter. As such, agility and flexibility are built right into the tool. No specialist is needed to run reports. All users should be able to query the business intelligence system and get what they need from it. The software itself enables users to ask flexible queries. The resulting information goes far beyond what users can generate from a system producing only reports.

Download our guide, Driving SMB Efficiency with Business Intelligence.

Questions to Ask Before Purchasing Business Intelligence Software

Now that you understand the difference between reporting and business intelligence software, it’s time to research BI software. A few questions to keep in mind as you talk to vendors about their software:

  1. Can you show me examples of the intelligence reports this software has produced?
  2. Are there limits on how many seats or licenses it can handle?
  3. What type of training do you offer? Is it in person, remote, or recorded?
  4. What kind of customization is possible?
  5. How easy is your program to use? How many clicks does it take to do X?

Business Intelligence Options From Mindover Software

Mindover Software provides many software options for businesses. These include ERP systems and business intelligence software that adds valuable insights to your data.

Sage 300 (formerly Sage Accpac) puts finance and accounting at its core but doesn’t stop there. The basic Sage 300 ERP system offers multiple add-ons, including Sage Intelligence, so companies can build out the exact system to meet their requirements.

Sage Intelligence comes with time-saving, built-in dashboards so you can get started using its business intelligence features immediately. View and analyze information quickly and easily with these features. If further customization is required, you can edit financial reports as needed. And, whether you need the big picture or the smallest detail, Sage Intelligence performs.

Acumatica is another robust ERP suite typically used by mid-sized businesses. Its own built-in reporting function is quite robust, but an added data analysis toolkit opens up a whole new world of data analysis to users.

One of the hallmarks of Acumatica is their approach to software. The company welcomes third-party vendors and has a series of partnerships that build out enhancements to their system. This includes business intelligence. Several third-party vendors also offer added business intelligence systems that may meet your needs even better, so talk to Mindover Software about your needs. We can help match you to the right business intelligence solution for your company.

If you are looking for an Excel-based reporting tool, Velixo Reports is an excellent solution. Velixo Reports is designed exclusively for Acumatica. It is a user-friendly Excel plugin that is lightning fast and leverages the unique capabilities of Acumatica.

For both Sage and Acumatica ERP, DataSelf is a powerful business intelligence tool for mid-sized businesses. Analytics offers more than 1 million ways to slice and dice your data using Tableau or Power BI.

As companies today grapple with trade wars, tariffs, and unpredictable consumer demand, one thing remains certain: data is the key that unlocks higher profits. The better the data and the analytics that go along with it, the better prepared your company will be to face its future and conquer the market. Speak with Mindover Software today about reporting and business intelligence enhancements for your company.

Call us at 512-990-3994.

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