Nearly all business software includes the ability to generate reports that summarize important data and help companies keep tabs on operations. However, those reporting capabilities can vary widely, from basic to advanced. Basic reporting features often allow for a limited, preformatted selection of the most common financial and operational reports, with minimal ability to customize. However, many companies will benefit from more advanced capabilities that let them build reports that precisely match their unique needs. Advanced reporting lets these businesses extensively customize templates or create tailored reports from scratch, gather data from a range of sources, delve into more detail and automate the reporting process.

What Is Advanced Reporting?

Advanced reporting is a broad term that encompasses a variety of features. In general, software with advanced reporting delivers a greater ability to tailor reports to your business. For example, you could compare the performance of specific business groups, track your company’s critical metrics in real time, drill down for greater detail and present users with personalized views of information. You may even be able to create custom reports that pull in data from multiple applications and other sources to provide a more complete view of business activities.

Key Takeaways

  • Advanced reporting lets businesses create customized reports that better match their business needs.
  • Benefits include improved business insights, more informed decisions and greater productivity.
  • Companies can customize almost every aspect of reports: Combine data from a variety of sources, incorporate specialized metrics and calculations and sort and group data based on relevant criteria.
  • Some advanced reporting solutions let businesses create personalized calculated fields, allowing for simple calculations in reports such as mean, median, mode, etc.
  • Companies can automate the production of recurring reports, reducing manual effort.

Why Is Advanced Reporting Important?

Gaining insights from data is critical to maintaining competitiveness and improving business performance. But every organization is different, and each business can benefit from viewing data in ways that reflect how its operations work and how it measures success. In addition, specific groups and individuals within the organization have differing information needs. Sales managers, for example, may need to compare individual sales representatives’ numbers while monitoring the team’s overall performance, whereas individual reps will be more interested in tracking their leads and progress toward their sales quotas.

Without advanced reporting tools, a lot of time-consuming, manual work may be required to create customized or individualized views of business data. Businesses often have to export data from multiple applications, compile the data into spreadsheets, manually apply specialized calculations and then move the results into yet another tool for presentation.

Managers may wait days or even weeks for critical reports, rendering the information in those reports always out-of-date.

Advanced Reporting Explained

Reporting tools, in general, make information easier to understand by selecting, summarizing and visualizing data in tables and charts. Advanced reporting enhances these basic capabilities in a number of ways. For example, you may be able to:

  • Create reports from scratch that combine data from multiple sources to deliver a more complete view of business performance or customer activity.
  • Customize reports to show detailed information that compares performance of specific groups or products.
  • Change almost any aspect of a report: Add or delete fields, incorporate custom metrics or specialized calculations and select and group data in various ways.
  • Visualize data in personalized, real-time dashboards that give each user an at-a-glance view of the information that’s most important to them.
  • Drill down into reports to examine the factors driving trends.
  • Automate the creation and distribution of recurring reports.

How Does Advanced Reporting Help?

Advanced reporting helps everyone in the organization get better insights from business data, more quickly and with less effort. Companies can generate reports that combine data from multiple sources, customize it to meet the needs of various users and automate the reporting process.

For example, companies may be able to create reports that combine inventory and historical sales data to improve how they forecast demand and product revenue. They can view detailed performance comparisons of business groups and individual products and drill down to examine the root causes of differences. Managers can view data in visualizations that help them quickly spot important trends so they can make better decisions. Customizing reports for sales, marketing and finance groups helps each team track their key metrics so they can take timely steps to maximize performance.

Benefits of Advanced Reporting

Advanced reporting can deliver benefits across the organization. It can both enhance decision-making and improve productivity.

  • More informed decisions: Advanced reporting supports informed decision-making across the business by presenting all users with the information they need, in a way they can easily understand.
  • Timelier data: Reports can be generated on demand and populated with real-time information, so users can make decisions based on up-to-date data.
  • Greater efficiency: Advanced reporting tools can greatly reduce the time and manual effort required to produce customized reports. In addition to delivering information to users more quickly, this frees up staff for more productive work.

Examples of Advanced Reporting

Examples of advanced reporting include:

  • A marketing team creates a weekly report that compares the effectiveness of various marketing campaigns conducted online and via other media. For each campaign, the report presents information such as the cost, response rate and leads generated.
  • A manufacturing company generates a report that compares the performance of three factories, examining output, quality, downtime and costs.
  • Each user in a company’s accounting department is provided with a personalized dashboard that includes tabular reports and visualizations of key data. Dashboards are tailored to the needs of specific roles, such as accounts receivable and accounts payable. Each user can then further customize by adding dashboard elements and changing the way data is displayed.

Forecasting With Advanced Reporting

Advanced reporting can also be used to create forecasts that predict future performance based on historical and current business data. For example, suppose a company produces sales forecasts using its current sales pipeline. A report that combines recent sales data with inventory information can help it determine whether it has enough stock to meet projected demand.

Or, in another example, companies can combine their current financial data with growth trends and assumptions to generate pro forma financial statements containing forecasts of future revenue, cash flow, assets and liabilities. The common thread is easy access to up-to-date data.

Automated Advanced Reporting

Automating the reporting process can reduce or even eliminate manual effort while ensuring timely delivery of information to all users. Some advanced reporting and analytics solutions let users schedule the creation and distribution of recurring reports in advance, removing the need to manually create reports for each period. At the scheduled time, the system collects the latest data, builds the report and emails it to a list of users in the user’s preferred format. If a warehouse team needs to see details of the day’s orders and current inventory each morning by 8 a.m., for example, automated reporting can ensure they get that information every day without human intervention.

Advanced reporting lets businesses build customized reports that more precisely match their information needs. This helps everyone across the organization get better insights from business data more quickly, facilitating faster, more informed decision-making. Advanced reporting tools also can automate the production and distribution of regular reports, greatly reducing manual effort.

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Advanced Reporting FAQs

Q: How do you create custom advanced reports?

A: You can create advanced custom reports from scratch or adapt an existing report. In either case, you select the data to include in the report and apply filters such as date range, product type or business group. You can change almost every aspect of the report to meet your business needs.

Q: What data is used in advanced reports?

A: Business solutions with advanced reporting may let you choose from among any data in your business applications. You may also be able to extract data from other internal and external sources and customize the way the data is presented.