There are many ways to turn data into information. The challenge for companies is to choose the right method to get simple yet flexible access to information for the broadest range of users. Although it may not be apparent, the words simple and flexible are diametrically opposed. Usually the simpler something is, the less flexible it is, and the more flexible it is, the more complex it becomes.

In the spectrum of business intelligence (BI) functions and tools, an information gap exists between the simple and the flexible. Although there are many different ways of getting information from a data warehouse and other data sources, the three most common information access methods - scheduled or push reporting, parameter-driven reporting, and ad hoc query and reporting and online analytical processing (OLAP) - exhibit varying degrees of simplicity and flexibility. A fourth and newer alternative called structured ad hoc may offer the best hope of filling in the information gap, providing a broad range of users simple and flexible in one package.

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