When someone says the word “reporting”, what’s the first thing you think of? It’s probably a dashboard with charts and graphs, or a spreadsheet with readouts from accounts and calculations and subtotals.
Now, what if someone says “analytics”? What do you think of then? If you’re like a lot of people, you think of the same thing that came to mind with the word reporting.
You can hardly be faulted for that. In articles and around the water cooler, business people use the two words nearly interchangeably.
The truth is, however, each can provide value to the business, but the value that each provides is very different. While reports can make complicated information easier to understand, it doesn’t offer the same depth of information or possibilities that analytics does. Each can provide value to the business, but the value they provide is very different.
Reporting vs Analytics
Reporting can be thought of as a snapshot in time of the business’s data. It summarizes data for an audience, giving them in many cases a visual representation of what that data looks like in relation to other data. That’s what you see in graphs and charts. You might also see reports in spreadsheets or a number of other forms.
Reports compare information and help organizations form intelligent questions about what the data represents.
Analytics, on the other hand, delves into that data. It’s not a snapshot view of the information, but a living, dynamic exploration of the information presented in data and reports. That exploration works to answer the questions that reports raise. More importantly, analytics give you insights into how you can make changes, or how you might continue along the same path. While reporting might make you wonder how you got where you are, analytics gives you a potential direction to move forward.
Why You Need Analytics
Don’t be mistaken – businesses need reporting. Knowing where you stand at a given moment is crucial in a lot of ways. For instance, a balance sheet is meant to show your financial position at a specific point in time.
But analytics goes farther than that because it’s not bound by time or a specific interval. The data can be sliced and diced to appear the way you need to see it.
Because of this, analytics becomes a business compass of sorts. It provides actionable insights and recommendations based on the information available.
It also adds depth to a report. Analytics promotes drilling down into data to gain a better understanding of not just where you’re at, but how you got there. It also allows you to “pull the string”, pulling in additional information from what may have seemed like unrelated sources when a report was created.
Lastly, analytics goes beyond only understanding the data by itself. The information can be looked at at a much broader scale to show overall trends, patterns, ups and downs, etc. that can span years of information.
Both reporting and analytics are important tools for a business. While reporting can help leaders understand where they are at in a given moment, or where they had been, analytics uncovers the whys of those moments and provides actionable insights that an organization can use to improve and reach its goals.
Centage Corporation’s Planning Maestro is a cloud-native planning & analytics platform that delivers year-round financial intelligence. With Planning Maestro, Centage offers the sophisticated features needed by small and mid-market organizations to integrate budgeting, forecasting, and deep data analysis within one easy-to-use, scalable SaaS solution. For more information on how to modernize your office of finance with intelligent planning, view our product demonstration video, or call 800-366-5111.