There are many different types of business intelligence software packages on the market today, and all are very diverse in scope. Some offer simple ad hoc reporting capabilities, others are complete “out of the box” solutions that provide a full portfolio of pre-developed reports and analytics, and some are robust development environments that enable the rapid creation and deployment of custom-built reporting applications.
Yet, all business intelligence systems provide a broad array of similar features that enable better, faster, and more informed decision making by users at all levels of an organization.
An Intuitive Web-based Interface
In the past, reporting and business intelligence tools were only available as client/server implementations. This put a tremendous strain on IT staff, who had to install and maintain software on end-user desktops. Additionally, this approach made business intelligence available to only a small percentage of the company’s information consumers.
The majority of business intelligence vendors provide Web-based access to corporate data to make information readily available to more users and user types, allowing for access anytime, anywhere.
Ad Hoc Reporting
First generation business intelligence offerings were highly complex in nature. As a result, only the most technically savvy business professionals – mostly analysts and power users – could effectively use them. Other workers had to continue to rely on IT staff to collect, aggregate, and format data in order to get the reports they needed. But today’s business intelligence solutions shield the end-users from all the technical complexities associated with reporting and analysis. Powerful yet simple and user-friendly ad hoc reporting capabilities make it easy for workers at all levels, including executives and frontline staff members, to quickly build and run their own reports any time they need them.
Flexible Formatting Options
Different users need their information to be presented in different ways. That’s why most business intelligence tools allow users to output their reports as Excel spreadsheets, Word documents, Web pages, Adobe PDF files, and a wide variety of other formats.
Dynamic Information Distribution
Many business intelligence systems allow users to schedule reports to automatically run at pre-set days and times. This helps ensure that the information being used to support decision making is refreshed at regular intervals, so it is up-to-date and accurate at all times. Reports can then be automatically sent to the email addresses or mobile devices of specified users.
Financial Reporting and Analysis
Companies are becoming increasingly concerned with their ability to comply with Sarbanes-Oxley and other types of financial reporting legislation. That’s why many business intelligence solution providers have incorporated powerful financial reporting capabilities into their offerings. Key features include pre-developed templates for balance sheets, profit and loss statements, and other common financial reports; the ability to process and calculate financially-oriented data; dynamic conversion of foreign currencies; complete audit trails; and more.