What used to be known simply as ‘reporting’ has evolved via ‘Decision Support Systems’ (DSS) into what is now termed ‘Business Intelligence’, or simply ‘BI’.

BI consists of processes, technologies and deliverables that are used together to analyse data. The ultimate goal of BI is to obtain actionable insight, and not merely to provide historical or ‘rear view’ reporting.


Operational systems, or ‘systems of record’, typically include a basic reporting capability. As a bolt-on to operational systems, operational reporting often provides a rudimentary analytic capability at best.

Beyond operational reporting, KPI reporting represents entry-level BI capability but also an important first step towards a dedicated BI capability. Compared to operational reporting, a dedicated KPI reporting capability provides several benefits:

  • transparent/defendable results
  • historic data can be collected, including slowly changing dimensions (SCDs)
  • data from multiple systems can be joined to give a more detailed picture
  • metrics/dimensions definitions defined and agreed
  • no impact on operational systems due to BI activity

Although KPI reporting may be considered ‘entry-level BI’, it does require a dedicated BI capability, which is an important first step towards higher levels of BI maturity.


Executive dashboards aim to represent an organisation’s main Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) in an -easy-to-consume manner, similar to how all important information (speed, fuel, temperature etc) is presented together via the dashboard in a car.

Although executive dashboards may contain similar KPIs to KPI reports, the manner in which the data is presented can make this approach more appealing to time-constrained senior decision makers.


Consumers of KPI reports and executive dashboards are often regarded as ‘BI farmers’ in that they consume or cultivate what has already been created.

Data analysts that self-serve to create BI reports/dashboards from scratch are regarded as ‘BI explorers’. Self-service BI analysts are able to submit modified queries in an iterative manner in response to previous result. This self-service ‘train of thought’ data analysis often yields the highest ROI.


Whether in the form of KPI reports, executive dashboards or self-service, BI has been traditionally delivered via desktop PCs and laptops.

With the advent of mobile devices such as cell (mobile) phones and tablets, there has been an expectation that BI is delivered ‘any time, any place’ via phones and tablets. BI vendors have either tailored their mobile BI offerings as proprietary - typically iOS or Android - or web enabled.

BI is now readily available on all mobile devices. You no longer need your desktop PC or laptop to gain crucial insight into your organisation’s performance.



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