Reporting vs Analytics: What's the Difference?

Posted by Rick Miller on October 16, 2017

Reporting vs Analytics for Government Contractors

By Rick Miller, Deltek Product Director

Government contractors, like most businesses, struggle to gain insight and make critical business decisions using data that often resides in multiple systems across the organization.

In a recent webinar, "Accelerating the Value of Analytics", one of the topics we discuss is “Reporting vs Analytics”. We provide an overview of both, discuss the differences between the two, and give examples of when you might use one over the other. For more detail, watch the webinar on demand.  In this webinar we go into more depth about Deltek Costpoint Analytics for government contractors and how it can benefit your company.

What is Reporting?

Standard reporting, and dashboards for that matter, represent a point in time you are looking at. Reporting generally involves a limited dataset with predefined paths, where data is organized into summaries or lists.  Typical examples are: project lists, financial statements, and lists of transactions.

Reporting requires that you work with predefined drill paths. This means that you need to know what data you want before you run the report and define the report parameters. Working with predefined drill paths can limit your views and how you get to the data. Things that fall outside your predefined path (outliers) or things that have been posted incorrectly (e.g. expenses charged to the wrong project) won’t show up in your report. So you may be missing information without realizing it.

Changing direction or deviating from the predefined path usually means you have to create another report. Since IT typically controls reporting this might take a while if your IT staff has a large backlog of requests. 

What is Analytics?

Unlike reporting, with analytics you are constantly interacting with the data. Analytics enables you to explore the data in a dynamic environment to answer questions and gain meaningful insight. With analytics you can analyze trend data across many dimensions and do what-if analysis on the fly.

Analytics lets you explore the data from any point in the analysis to easily see connections and disconnects in the data, even though you may be working with thousands, even millions of rows of data. Being able to move through the data quickly to find the information you are looking for makes analytics very powerful.

Analytics consolidates data across multiple data sources and lets you look at it from many different views. You’re able to bring data from various systems across your organization into the analytics environment instead of building a data warehouse - which could take months or years. For instance, you can combine pipeline data with backlog revenue forecast data even though the data comes from different systems. This is extremely valuable, because the answers you are trying to find typically reside in multiple places. By bringing data together in the analytics environment, you can get a more complete picture and ensure everyone is working with the same version of the truth.

From an IT perspective, an analytics platform gives IT a way to give users access to data, but still control what they see. It also allows them to ensure data is being accessed in a secure and scalable environment, but at the same time people are able to move around in the data to get what they need.

Reporting vs Analytics: When to Use

So when should you use reporting vs analytics?  It’s not that one is better than the other; rather the point is to use the right thing at the right time. There are times when reporting will be better to use. For example, when you are creating summaries or simple lists of projects, employees, invoices, accounts and so forth. Or if you’re working with a limited data set and don’t need to get into the data or analyze it every day. For example, if you want to review purchase orders that are open/pending or journal entries that have been posted.

When you need a broader and much deeper view of the data– that’s when you’ll want to use analytics. For instance, analytics is great if you need to look at a broad spectrum of trend data and want to sift through it, shift time periods and analyze years of data in a few minutes.  Analytics is also good when you need to ask many questions of the same data set or do what-if analysis on the fly.

Analytics platforms are designed to be user friendly so that that they can be used by a wide variety of business users. It can be a great tool for senior management. Rather than simply giving management a 60 page report, an analytics tool will let them get in and interact with the data to gain insight and make decisions more quickly.

Analytics for Government Contractors

Deltek Costpoint Analytics with Costpoint Accelerators is designed specifically for government contractors and will help you gain insight and answer questions about your business so you can make smarter, more informed decisions.

Next Steps