Business intelligence (BI) software allows you to pose questions to your data and receive answers in the form of a report. Questions asked of data ultimately fall into two categories: questions asked on a regular basis (weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc.) and ad hoc or random questions asked periodically, out of curiosity or when trying to prove a hypothesis.

Reporting, the foundation of BI, is specifically for the type of questions that are asked on a regular basis. Reports present and document answers to the most common business questions - the questions deemed so important that you want to be able to run a report and see the information on a moment's notice. Many common business problems (such as sales are down in the East, inventory is too high in the warehouse and expenses are on the rise) are readily identified in daily, weekly and monthly reports.

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