Reporting vs. Analytics- How They Differ & Why Both Are Important

Businesses frequently collect big data that demonstrates how the company is performing in comparison to their competitors. Specific metrics are utilized in order to measure data to help businesses generate insights in real-time and make recommendations to departments within the organization.

In order for data analysts to come up with evaluations, data must first be reported, or explained through a detailed account. Then the data is analyzed in order to discover key patterns within the data. Though reporting and analytics are words that are sometimes used interchangeably, both have different purposes, values, and delivery processes.

What is Reporting?

A report is a document that gives a detailed account of a particular circumstance or issue. A report writer is tasked with thoroughly investigating the matter so he/she can make evaluations or recommendations pertaining to it. When applied to a business's marketing or sales strategies, a report is the process of organizing external and internal data into visuals and written summaries. Sales and marketing reports can address and answer several different types of questions, including-

  • Did the sales campaign attract the expected number of customers?
  • Did the sales in the current quarter exceed the sales of the prior one?
  • Was a new marketing campaign as successful as a previous campaign?
  • How do sales compare among different geographical locations and franchises?
In short, reports allow owners and decision-makers to evaluate the key performance indicators (KPIs) within each company department and answer questions in order to measure how the business is performing overall. Fortunately, there is software that allows owners and employees to quickly create reports and make them accessible to everyone within the business. One analytics and reporting tool that tracks, manages, and evaluates data so owners can make decisions are dashboards.

What is Analytics?

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Analytics is the process of discovering and communicating patterns found within external and internal data. One can use their analytical skills in order to closely examine data sources to discover its purpose and features. Reporting focuses on organizing and systemizing raw data, while analytics is the process of exploring and interpreting data to determine why patterns occur in the manner that they do.

Analytics digs deeper into the behavioral patterns of customers. If a report is created to demonstrate the demographics of customers at two different franchises, one could use analytics to argue that one of the restaurants attracts younger patrons because it operates in an urban area where more of them live. Reporting presents the data, while analytics gives insights into the data.
Some other questions that analytics might assess include-

  • Why was one marketing campaign more effective than another?
  • Why were there more sales during the summer than the winter?
  • Why are fewer people purchasing a specific product or utilizing a certain service?
  • What external data points affect the internal operations of the business?
Understanding the difference between reporting and analytics allows users to receive the most benefit from each without missing out on the features of the other. By utilizing reporting and analytics software tools, users can answer the what, how, and why found in their data. Software tools allow business owners to use data to create accessible reports that provide evaluations of their collected external and internal information.

Tasks to Determine Reporting vs. Analytics

Many people may become confused as to whether they are simply reporting data or analyzing it. Some work falls more under the line of reporting, including-

  • Consolidating data into one place
  • Formatting data so it's easier to read
  • Organizing data into different categories or spreadsheets
  • Summarizing data without making interpretations

On the other hand, analysis focuses on tasks, like-
  • Questioning information
  • Using data to make evaluations
  • Interpreting charts or information
  • Comparing two sets of data
  • Confirming assessments or conclusions made on the data

Outputs- Reporting

Data reporting and analytics charts, graphs, tables, and summaries look similar but there are some key differences between the two. The main difference is the approach that the report writer/analyst takes when presenting the data to a recipient. Reporting utilizes a push approach, where the recipients are pushed to generate their own insights from the delivered documents. There are three different types of reporting, which include-

1. Canned Reports
Users can sometimes access these customized reports through software tools, such as a dashboard. Or, the report writer can deliver canned reports on a regular basis via email. For instance, a sales manager sends weekly or monthly canned reports to their team members that give an overall summary of how the team performed.

The report's value depends on how relevant it is to the recipient. For example, a company might send a weekly canned report to all employees that shows how each department performed according to preconceived metrics. A sales manager won't find much value in the KPIs of the human resource department but will find value in the portion that tells the KPIs of the sales department.

2. Dashboards
A dashboard reporting tool holds and uses data information from external and internal sources in order to provide a comprehensive, customized view of how the business is performing. If the user is a member of the sales team, for instance, dashboard access might be tailored towards sales metrics. Other users in different departments can utilize aspects of the dashboard that holds data relevant to them and their needs.

3. Alerts
When data falls outside of a specific range, or when a certain metric is not achieved by a department within a company, an alert report can be sent out to notify the necessary employees so they can correct it. To illustrate, if too many employees within the marketing department have clocked in late one week, the human resource team can send out an alert report to the marketing manager so he can address it with his team members.

Outputs- Analytics

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Analysis reporting follows a pull approach where data is extracted to draw explanations for researched material. There are two types of assessments that analysts deliver to a group of recipients. These include-

1. Ad Hoc Responses
Some employees send ad hoc questions about a recent report to the analysis team. For example, a report might demonstrate that sales dropped on a particular day. The sales department manager could write back to the analyst asking for any external reasons behind the drop. If the data analysis team is small or overwhelmed by other requests, they may give shortened responses that give limited recommendations or evaluations.

2. Analysis Presentations
Sometimes the questions that need answers are more complex and require more time to do deep-level analysis. These deliverables are more formal, and include two sections-

  • Key Findings - These are the most meaningful and actionable insights and evaluations made from the analyzed data.
  • Recommendations - This section offers advice on how to take the action found in the key findings.
In summary, the report recipient should be able to tell whether or not the deliverable is focused on reporting vs. analytics based on whether or not it informs (reporting) or generates insights (analytics). Also, reporting utilizes the push approach, where employees are pushed to extract information themselves, while analytics uses the pull approach, where analysts pull a set of data in order to draw conclusions.


Sending reports on a regular basis to multiple groups and departments can be a demanding process for analysts. Automatic reports, or reports that are delivered on an automatic schedule, provide a simpler way for analysts to build and deliver these documents to key individuals.

However, explaining the information within the reports can sometimes be more effective if it is presented in person. To illustrate, a sales manager might print off several different reports for each team member and then use a projector to discuss the key findings with them in person. This can help make the analysis more meaningful because it is delivered by a trusted manager who can answer any relevant questions.

Value of Data

The reporting/analysis process requires that businesses make decisions to have the proper external and internal data to begin with. Without access to reliable information that is backed up by various data-driven sources, there can't be a valuable analysis process. Some companies might have plenty of collected data, but they don't have the resources or time to properly analyze it. This is especially true for small businesses, where resources are often limited and employees sometimes wear multiple hats.

Though small businesses may not be able to perform the high- level analytics a large business can, a revealing 67% are spending more than 10K per year on analytics. Small businesses are still utilizing automatic software solutions to evaluate problems and come up with reasonable recommendations.

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