What are reporting tools? (With tips and examples)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 14 April 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Businesses use reporting tools to gather important data about their activities, to glean key insights and to better understand how to improve their operations. Data reporting programmes are a powerful resource for organisations to visualise and inspect key data points in the form of graphs and visuals. There are many types of tools available for businesses to use and they vary depending on their functionality and the industry they serve. In this article, we discuss what reporting tools are, offer tips to use them effectively and look at the most popular tools available to generate reports.

What are reporting tools?

Reporting tools or reporting software, are useful pieces of programming that organisations use to create reports and display important data. Reporting software provides companies with a way to clearly and accurately generate visualisations of data in the form of graphs, charts, tables and other visualisations. Project managers, data analysts and financial analysts use reporting programmes to inspect the health, productivity or efficiency of a company.

There are many types of reporting software available for companies to use, depending on what they're looking to use their data for. Data visualisation software and dashboard programmes are the two most commonly used types of reporting software, but there are many others available.

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Why is reporting software important for business?

Reporting software is incredibly useful for all types of companies because it allows them to visualise important data and better understand their company operations. Being able to collect, collate and organise data allows companies to make more informed business decisions. Reporting programmes make it easier to analyse data and see what is actually going on with things like total sales, revenue, operating costs over specific time periods. Much of the fully automated data collection and reporting saves organisations a great deal of time and resources.

Related: A guide to different types of charts and graphs

Most popular reporting software for businesses

There are many reporting software programmes available for businesses. Finding the right one depends on how you intend to use the data and the size of your organisation. Below are some of the most popular reporting tools available on the market today:

1. Whatagraph

Whatagraph is a powerful reporting tool designed with social media and marketing analytics in mind. Whatagraph automates a great deal of the data collection for you, which saves a great deal of time and energy. It can collect important data across multiple marketing channels to create in-depth reports. The software also allows you to create excellent visual data displays and analytics including charts and graphs. If you're looking to target specific data, you can even input specific key performance indicators (KPIs) and the software can track those specific metrics.

2. Power BI

Power BI is a reporting tool and a data visualisation tool. It's a robust piece of software that takes in data from multiple sources before turning it into easy to understand visual representations. It makes it easy to glean key insights into how a business is doing by using simple, clear visuals. It's also powerful enough to handle large chunks of data, making it a great choice for larger companies that are looking to track their business data over a period of time.

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3. Reportei

Reportei is another reporting tool that focuses on social media platforms. It's a digital marketing analytics programme that offers a wide range of functionality for social media data analysis. It provides quick reporting and uses dashboards to display the information on the fly, which is perfect for those of us that work in digital marketing. The reports are relatively basic, but they're easy to understand and include all the important data points for marketers.

4. Hive

Hive is a reporting tool that focuses on project management. This software gathers data from a wide range of sources and compiles them into a single area for easy viewing and an excellent overview of an entire organisation's operations. Hive lets users create fully interactive data dashboards that can track data points in real-time, giving the most accurate information available.

Hive is a cloud-based system so there is no worry about installing software and it works through any device that is Internet ready. It's also designed to work with the most popular project management applications available, which makes data reporting even simpler.

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5. Wrike

Wrike is another reporting tool that is specially designed for project management. It can track a vast number of metrics, including productivity and project progress, to assess the current health of a project. It allows for multi-user collaboration so that departments can work together and use the same data visualisations. Wrike is customisable so that users can create their own dashboards and widgets for their current projects. It even has in-built templates to make it faster and easier to generate reports.

6. Octoboard

Octoboard is an excellent reporting tool for marketing agencies and businesses. It has powerful data collection functionality, which allows for automated reporting and makes it easy to glean insights about a company. It's another cloud-based solution, so you can access it from any device with online access, which makes collaboration much easier. As a reporting tool, Octoboard can plug into social media platforms to get analytics about marketing campaigns and other social media projects.

7. Tableau

Tableau is an excellent reporting tool for visualisations, using raw data points to create visually stunning graphics, dashboards and worksheets. It's an excellent tool for collecting important business analytics and it's simple to use. It's not required that you understand any coding or programming to get Tableau running. It can work with structured query language code to create insightful data visuals for all types of businesses.

8. ProWorkflow

ProWorkflow is a good all-rounder, offering a good range of functionality for all types of analysis. It has excellent data reporting features and can help with project management, too. It's highly regarded for its ability to generate compelling graphs, but there are a lot of other great features, including quote creation, invoices and other data tools.

9. ThoughtSpot

ThoughtSpot uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to provide exceptionally accurate business analytics. It can plug into cloud databases and create real-time business reports. If you're new to the world of data reporting, ThoughtSpot is the perfect option for you because there is very little background knowledge required to use it. This is excellent for collaborating with departments that are less tech-savvy but could still benefit from reporting software and data analytics.

10. Zoho Analytics

Zoho Analytics is a great reporting tool for creating data dashboards, especially for sales and marketing departments. It can use data points across a wide range of sources to generate reports and it's an excellent tool for project management too. Zoho Analytics lets you generate reports on a project's KPIs and makes it easy to create progress reports collaboratively.

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Tips for using reporting software effectively

Reporting tools are only effective if they're used correctly. Using tools effectively can help you get the most out of your reporting software. Some useful tips are:

Tailor your reporting protocols for your business

As we have seen, there are lots of different reporting programmes available. It can benefit your business tremendously to find one that suits your needs. If you're working in a marketing agency, for example, reporting software like Reportei or Whatagraph may suit your work than Zoho Analytics would be. Some considerations for choosing the right software are business size, data needs and personal preference.

Get the format right

How you display the data you collect is almost as important as the data itself. For example, if you're reporting on a project's overall progress, a chronological timeline would make it much easier to visualise the progress made. Make sure that you're using the right tools that can provide you with a suitable format for the data visualisation.

Understand your audience

Think about who is going to view your reports and visualisations to find the best way to present them. If you're working with the finance department, use spreadsheets and graphs to visualise the data because that is the format they're most used to. It's going to vary depending on your audience, so consider them before finalising a format.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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