What Is Business Intelligence Reporting?

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Learn why business intelligence reporting is important across industries and how it might benefit you in your industry. Plus, explore examples of who uses this type of reporting across professional fields.

[Featured Image] Two manufacturing employees meet with a data analyst and go over insights gained through business intelligence reporting so they can optimize their factory's performance.

Business intelligence reporting is fundamental in business, allowing professionals of all backgrounds to analyze and interpret their data. This leads to a better understanding of company information and market trends, and more accessible data sharing. Explore the ins and outs of business intelligence reporting, including how it’s used, who uses it, and simple steps to take to build your first report.

What is business intelligence reporting? 

Business intelligence (BI) reporting is an important step businesses take to analyze their data and make effective business decisions accurately. BI reporting helps to inform corporate strategy, providing metrics that professionals can use to take evidence-based actions. BI software helps to organize and interpret data in various ways, including reporting, querying, processing, and visualizing.  

The BI reporting process involves collecting, analyzing, and visualizing business information to help organizations make informed decisions and share findings with stakeholders. When creating a BI report, you can use two approaches depending on your background and knowledge base. If you are a technical employee, you will likely engage in managed reporting, which involves preparing data in a way that non-technical users can understand. If you don’t have a technical background, you will likely use ad-hoc reporting, which uses a BI platform to create reports using more assistive technologies designed to streamline the process. 

Types of business intelligence tools

To best understand and represent business trends, you can use several types of tools with your data. Common tools to explore include Board, Domo, Microsoft Power BI, MicroStrategy, and Qlik. Many tools have capabilities in each of the following areas, and depending on your goals, you can tailor the functionalities you explore. Within these tools, consider functionalities you might benefit from, including:


You can use the reporting functionalities of BI tools to organize data into summaries and visualizations, which can help you and your stakeholders understand complex information at a glance. These tools can generate regular reports that track key performance indicators (KPIs), such as sales, customer interactions, inventory counts, and other relevant metrics.


These functions allow you to ask specific, detailed questions about your data and receive immediate answers. Querying tools enable you to extract precise information from large data sets, facilitating a deeper understanding of specific aspects of the business.


Representing data as numbers and statistics has many strengths, but in some cases, providing a visualization can make your data more easily understood by a wider audience. Visualization tools help to unify your data and reveal relationships that might not be otherwise apparent. This helps with data exploration and decision-making and can provide an easier way to communicate your findings without needing a technical background. 

What is business intelligence reporting used for?

You can use BI reporting in many ways to improve your business outcomes and organizational efficiency. Depending on your organization, BI reporting might help you:

  • Turn data into insights: At its core, BI reporting transforms raw data from various sources into meaningful insights. 

  • Find business trends and patterns: You can use BI tools to uncover trends and patterns within the data that you might miss otherwise. Augmented analysis, which uses artificial intelligence mechanisms, can further identify hidden trends. Identifying these trends can help you anticipate future events or trends and adapt your strategies.

  • Monitor performance and optimize processes: Regular BI reports enable you to monitor business performance against internal goals and competitor outcomes. You can continually optimize operational efficiency by highlighting areas of success and those needing improvement.

Who uses business intelligence reporting?

Thanks to its user-friendliness, BI reporting is a key tool used by a variety of professionals and industries to make sense of large amounts of data and guide decision-making processes. Data analysts and BI analysts commonly use this technology, digging into data to find insights that can help shape business strategies. They look for patterns and trends that can tell a story about how a business is performing or what it might do next.

Data scientists also heavily rely on BI reporting. Still, they take things a step further by using advanced analytics and machine learning to predict future trends and provide recommendations for actions to take. Their work helps businesses anticipate changes and prepare for what’s coming, giving them a competitive edge.

This approach to data analysis isn’t limited to one field but stretches across many industries. You can use BI reporting to manage patient information in health care, improving care and efficiency. Manufacturing companies use it to monitor productivity and safety and find ways to improve processes. The financial sector relies on BI to manage risk and understand the financial health of an organization. At the same time, retail and e-commerce businesses use it to track inventory and tailor marketing efforts to what customers want.

Pros and cons of using business intelligence reporting

Many professionals benefit from business intelligence reporting, which creates effective reports and insights that guide business decisions. However, BI reporting, as with anything, has its own set of limitations. Let’s explore some pros and cons of BI reporting that can help you ensure you’re set up for success.


  • Accessible for anyone: Modern tools for BI reporting make it possible for people of all backgrounds to create customized reports and insights.

  • Data-driven decision-making: BI reporting provides companies with insights they can use to take actions that align with their goals.

  • Operational efficiency: BI reporting significantly improves operational efficiency by identifying bottlenecks and optimizing processes.

  • Productivity: Streamlined data access and analysis lead to higher team productivity, enabling quick and informed decision-making.

  • Data sharing: BI tools facilitate easy data sharing and visualization across teams and departments, ensuring everyone’s goals and perceptions align.


  • Complexity: Manually computing insights requires expertise to ensure accuracy and relevance, which may make it difficult for non-technical users to validate results. 

  • Regular updates needed: For BI reporting to be effective, data must be continuously updated, which can be resource-intensive.

  • Potential for misinterpretation: Misinterpretation can lead to flawed decision-making without proper context or understanding.

How to start building business intelligence reports

You can start building BI reports with a few simple steps, structuring your format to best communicate your insights to your chosen audience. To begin, follow this step-by-step guide.

  1. Choose your audience: The first step in creating a BI report is understanding who will read it. Different stakeholders may require different information, so tailor your report to meet the specific needs of your audience. 

  2. Determine the right type of platform: Look for a platform that fits the needs of your audience. Seek out something customizable and scalable, with built-in tools necessary for your tasks. In many cases, it’s easier if you stick to one platform throughout data collection and analysis stages. 

  3. Learn how to turn your insights into visuals: Effective BI reports often rely on data visualization to communicate complex information clearly and concisely.

  4. Create adaptable structures: When designing your report, consider making its structure adaptable. This means setting up your report so it can be easily updated or modified without starting from scratch each time new data becomes available. 

Getting started with Coursera

You can learn more about business intelligence with exciting courses on the Coursera learning platform. For advanced learners, Google offers several options on Coursera to expand your knowledge and build professional skills. Consider the Google Business Intelligence Professional Certificate for a comprehensive overview of these topics, or opt for a shorter introduction with the Foundations of Business Intelligence course.

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