Analysis is overrated. Let me clarify. There are two major components of business intelligence (BI): reporting and analysis. Reporting is a category of software that allows you to ask a common question and receive a formatted result in the form of a document. Typically, someone builds a report when it represents a question that will be repeatedly asked on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. The report helps monitor the status of critical business activities such as sales, revenue, inventory, etc. Very often, an IT professional will create a report that can be run on demand by one or more people or scheduled and distributed to many people by email.

Analysis is not too different from reporting in that it provides an answer to a question. Analysis, however, normally represents uncommon questions - questions that are thought about on an impromptu or ad hoc basis. When a question is novel and rarely posed, chances are that no report exists that answers it. As a result, business intelligence tools - often called ad hoc query tools or online analytical processing (OLAP) tools - are provided to the user to ask the question without the help of an IT professional. These tools allow information workers to look at data in different ways by re-aggregating it in various groups, filtering it, applying new calculations or even re-sorting it.

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