Information is critical to the management of any form of enterprise, whether corporate, nonprofit, academic or governmental. Without it, the essential management functions of controlling and deploying the enterprise's resources to achieve its objectives would be precarious, if not impossible. The larger the organization, the more essential and exacting the information requirements are. Collecting, processing and disseminating information to management has become a critical organizational task.
Management at different levels in an organization performs different functions, each requiring differing types of information. Operational and analytical information are two of these distinct types.
Analytical reporting supports the strategic and planning functions of senior management, whereas operational reporting supports the company's day-to-day functions.
Every enterprise needs some form of vision regarding what it is, what it stands for and where it's going. Senior management traditionally takes on the mantle of making these types of decisions and devising the medium- and long-term strategic organizational plans to take it along a desirable path toward its objectives.
In parallel, the organization needs to produce and deliver the goods and/or services required by its client base on a daily, weekly and monthly basis, and to manage this process effectively.
The information required to make strategic decisions involves predictions of changes in levels and types of demand for the organization's services; the type and availability of the resources the organization will require to produce its goods and/or services, including labor, raw materials, funding, equipment and premises from which to operate; and potential external factors like economic predictions and legislative environments.
Management of the day-to-day organizational functions requires information on what must be delivered on an hourly, daily, weekly and monthly basis; what resources are available to produce the required deliverables; what is actually produced; and what can really be delivered, along with information to allow shortfalls or unwanted surpluses to be remedied.
Analytical reporting is oriented toward supporting the strategic and planning functions of senior management. Operational reporting is oriented toward supporting the day-to-day organizational functions.
To this end, analytical reporting is aimed at providing the information regarding the big picture of the organization and its direction, involving historical data, trend projections and summary information but not detailed level data. Operational reporting metrics are aimed at providing support for decision-making in a potentially fast moving environment, giving a detailed picture of the present and the immediate future, such that individual actions can be managed in real-time or near real-time.