Key Performance Indicators, more commonly known as KPIs, measure organizations, projects, and individuals. These measurements are juxtaposed against goals and objectives and opportunities.

The challenge for software developers is to translate which KPIs are important and how to represent them on a business intelligence (BI) software dashboard in a way that’s relevant to an intended audience, such as financial directors or managers.

But, as your organization’s financial director or manager, how do you share KPI information with your organization’s board of directors or, perhaps, with an auditor? It’s not always possible to get everyone in the same room to look at a KPI dashboard.

That is when to consider using a query to generate a report that can be easily circulated among all interested parties.

To understand when to use a query versus when to use a report, keep these differences in mind:

  • A query is a function that pulls data from a database that is often organized and presented in a very loose fashion.For example, an accounting query may present data in a list format. The query will not give totals for accounting data for invoices or open order data for specific customers. Rather, the query pulls up all of those invoices, by date, for each customer, along with their contact information, if requested.
  • A report takes data from a database and places it into a useful or meaningful format. Reports are often used for presentations or general circulation because they use columns, headings, and provide logical meaning. A report draws conclusions on data. For example, by totaling accounting data.
  • Queries help filter large amounts of data into more manageable quantities.
  • Reports present data in meaningful formats so that conclusions and information about the data can be more easily seen.
  • Queries are often used to put together reports so that information can be distributed to project stakeholders and other interested parties in an organization.

Queries and reports can be used together to retrieve information from databases. Think of the query as the search tool used to find specific information such as an item, number, or name. Then the report is the formatted result of the database query that contains the required data needed for decision making and analysis.

The best business applications not only provide KPIs and their related dashboard view, but also contain built-in querying and reporting tools. This software scenario combines the real-time KPI/dashboard view with querying/reporting, often with the option to save the query or report for future reference or use.

So, while a BI software product dashboard provides a quick snapshot of the current state of your business, taking the time to better understand your data and learning how to extract it from your database through querying and reporting could help you create a better informed organization and leadership team.