Reporting — Reporting provides the ability to create formatted and interactive reports, with highly scalable distribution and scheduling capabilities. In addition, BI platform vendors should handle a wide array of reporting styles (for example, financial, operational and performance dashboards).
Dashboards — This subset of reporting includes the ability to publish formal, Web-based reports, with intuitive displays of information, including dials, gauges and traffic lights. These displays indicate the state of the performance metric compared with a goal or target value. Increasingly, dashboards are used to disseminate real-time data from operational applications.
Ad hoc query — This capability, also known as self-service reporting, enables users to ask their own questions of the data, without relying on IT to create a report. In particular, the tools must have a robust semantic layer to allow users to navigate available data sources. In addition, these tools should offer query governance and auditing capabilities to ensure that queries perform well.
Microsoft Office integration — In some cases, BI platforms are used as a middle tier to manage, secure and execute BI tasks, but Microsoft Office (particularly Excel) acts as the BI client. In these cases, it is vital that the BI vendor provides integration with Microsoft Office, including support for document formats, formulas, data “refresh” and pivot tables. Advanced integration includes cell locking and write-back.