The Subtle Difference Between Data Analysis and Reporting

Identifying the difference between data reporting and analysis can sometimes be hard. This is not helped by the fact that the words ‘reporting’ and ‘analysis’ are often used interchangeably, implying they are the same thing.

This is not true.

Whilst both are aspects of web analytics, there are some key differences between reporting and analysis. Throughout this guide, BDI explores the core differences between data reporting and analysis, creating a clear understanding of their meaning.

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Basic differences

There are fundamental differences between reporting and analysis that comes down to the form the data involved takes.

In reporting, data is organised into summaries. On the other hand, analysis involves inspecting, cleaning, and transforming data before creating models. Whilst reporting translates data into information, analysis turns information into insights.

Another way to consider the difference is to assess what impact the data has on the user. For example, reporting allows users to ask ‘what’ questions about the data. For example, ‘what is the average performance of our sales team?’ Analysis should answer ‘why’ questions, and ‘what can we do about it’.

It is therefore common for analysis and reporting to appear in tandem, creating a full picture of an organisation’s data.

Differences in purpose

Reporting helps companies monitor their data. This has always been the case, even before the expansion of technology and influx of digital business intelligence solutions.

In the simplest terms, reporting extracts data and makes it easier to understand. Reporting can link between cross-channels of data, provide a comparison, and make information easier to understand.

On the other hand, analysis interprets data at a deeper level. Interpreted data informs action recommendations and situation responses. Analysis therefore often builds off reporting and provides a deeper picture that explains the reasons behind events.

How the tasks vary

When it comes to tasks, there is a fine line of differences between reporting and analysis.

Tasks involved with reporting includes configuring, consolidating, organising, formatting, and summarising data. This data is often translated into charts and graphs. Audiences can therefore visualise trends and gain better understandings of data.

Linking data across multiple channels creates deeper understandings and broader pictures. For example, information extracted from Google Analytics forms a detailed e-commerce sale data report when combined with internal sales information.

Analysis, on the other hand, consists of questioning, examining, interpreting, comparing, and confirming data. Analysis provides an extra level over reports, as connections formed between data trends provides greater guidance over what has caused a particular situation. Predictions are possible when analysis combines with Big Data.

Reporting vs analysis outputs

Each method of data interpretation has a different output, whether it is reporting or analysis. This does refers not only to the literal display method, but also the force applied to data users.

Reporting has a push force, or approach, as it pushes information to users. Data output typically takes the form of canned reports, dashboards, and alerts.

Analysis, on the other hand, has a pull approach. A data analyst draws from information to further probe the information and answer business questions. Ad hoc responses and analysis presentations form the most common output options.

Delivery differences

Even the reporting and analysis delivery methods are different.

Reporting often involves repetitive tasks, such as exporting data from wherever it is stored or collected. Automation simplifies this process, however.

In comparison, analysis requires a more custom approach. Extracting insights from reports and raw data often require reason and analytical thinking. Technical skills or business intelligence software streamline this process to be more efficient, helping users accomplish a specific goal more efficiently.

How value differs

Both reporting and analysis provide value to your organisation, and neither one nor the other provides more. Reporting in itself is just numbers, and analysis requires critical and analytical thinking to find answers.

Data alone is useless and requires some work for value to be found. However, action that is not informed by data is baseless. The work required to create data reports and analysis is, therefore, crucial to your organisation. They are vital to bringing value to your data and operations.


To summarise, data reporting and analysis are different from each other in a variety of ways. However, they both bring value to your organisation and often work well in tandem.

Data reporting provides information about your organisation, but you must interpret this data with the context to base your interpretation on facts. Therefore, whilst data reporting and analysis are distinct and different, they do rely on each other.

Reports should be the first line of defence for your organisation. However, combine them with insights and your organisation has the ammunition to fix issues and seize opportunities.

BDI offers a range of Excel and Web reporting packs to help your organisation extract the most value from your data. We promise business-focused and value-for-money results from our data analysis and reporting service. This includes one or more form of reporting, such as standard, ad hoc, dashboard, or predictive reporting.

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