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Business Reporting, the Backbone of Business Intelligence

Business Intelligence (BI) is a technology that helps support business decision making. BI helps decision makers in making better and faster decisions – better as data layouts are business specific, customized and highly organized; and faster with the efficiencies that come in building this technology.

Business reporting is the backbone of BI where not only C-level executives, but also managers and analysts, keep track of and can share their goals and key performance indicators (KPI) in daily operations; bringing better insight into their data and the outcome of decisions giving a direction to their organization all leading to efficiencies in business processes.

IBM Cognos has a set of business reporting tools each of which come with features aimed at specific business users. Query studio is one such Web based ad-hoc reporting tool. Query studio gives users the ability to create basic calculations with simple formatting options that run in multiple output formats and can be saved as ad-hoc queries for future references.

Analysis studio is another Web based or “zero foot print” tool that requires no installations other than a simple URL link, and it works with On Line Analytical Processing (OLAP) and Dimensionally Modeled Relational (DMR) data sources. This tool is used for slicing and dicing, drilling up (to summary level) and down into details so users can swiftly and seamlessly arrive at the analysis they are looking for.

Report studio is considered the mother of all Web studios from Cognos BI arsenal. Report studio has the features of all the other reporting tools and then some. It is considered as a “pixel-perfect” tool which lets professional authors write simple to highly complex reports and distribute them to hundreds of users via various options. Apart from OLAP data sources and its MDX functions, report studio can also use relational data sources in creating reports and dashboards. The drag and drop feature helps in developing dashboards with great ease by dropping lists, pivot tables or cross tabs and various charts that usually enrich the real estate on the page and do away with number crunching on clustered report pages.

IBM Cognos report studio offers the ability to drill up and drill down from a summary to a detailed view of data and also allows drill throughs, when a user can jump from one report to another report related by common columns. Delivering reports in report studio can be done by attaching report outputs in emails or simply storing reports in a repository for shared or secured access. Outputs in PDF, HTML, Excel (various versions), CSV and XML can be accessed by users connected to the Web portal Cognos Connection that launches the various reporting studios. Another option is the ability to “burst” a report, which is a popular choice among many customers as it saves tremendous amounts of development time – as one report is run and its output is divided and delivered to the respective recipients – making certain, the appropriate security settings are incorporated to the lowest row level. An example of a ‘bursted’ report would be developing one sales report that gets pushed out to various sales reps, who would view only the accounts they have access to, thereby delivering unlimited report outputs based on distinct sales rep ID or the burst key.

Other reports that have been created using report studio are employee and product performance reports. For the financial sector there are income statements, balance sheets and actual versus budget reports with complex calculations that span over time periods. For the retail sector, there are track of stock reports. And for the defense or property management industry, the use of highly visual charts that make use of geographical BI by providing maps based on political boundaries or customized regions, have been created as well.

These powerful yet user-friendly business reporting tools create industry standard as well as customized solutions, and by providing the right information to the right people make investigating sweet spots and troubled areas of an organization possible and making BI a top priority for CIO’s across the globe.

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