Report Distribution in BI Tools — User Requirements

BI Helper
3 min readJun 5, 2019

The automated generation and distribution of user-specific reports from BI tools like Power BI or Tableau is called report bursting. This is a common requirement across organizations of all types and sizes, which need to share information with internal and external users such as employees, clients and vendors.

Reports need to be shared with different people, some of whom can access ALL the data in the report and others who are only authorized to see data specific to them. For example, a sales performance report sliced by branch has an audience for the entire data (business analysts, national sales manager, executive management) and a different set of users who are allowed to view only THEIR data (region managers, branch managers).

In this article, we discuss user perspectives and requirements on report automation.

Push vs pull — which is better?

Reports are shared with users in one of two modes — push or pull. Push solutions send out reports and the recipients can view them in their inboxes. Pull solutions require users to login to the BI tool to view their reports.

If users need to view standardized information and have a limited amount of time to read and review the report, then pushing a PDF copy to their inbox is a great option. On the other hand, if users need to interact with the reports (slice and dice, drill down / up, export and analyze data), they need to login to the BI tool and view the report.

In the above example, branch managers are well served by the push solution, while analysts and management want a deep dive into the underlying data.

For the organization, licensing and IT costs are important considerations in framing their report automation and distribution strategy.

User Requirements

A business manager is typically interested in ensuring that report delivery and consumption is simple and effective. He may not have the time or expertise to implement a complex reporting automation project. This leads to the following considerations for a reporting automation project:

  1. Ease of use: End-users should be able to receive and consume their reports easily and effectively. They shouldn’t be burdened with having to learn new applications, have complex login and access procedures or other demands on their time just to view a report.
  2. Easy implementation and support: Minimal dependency on the development and IT teams, so as to keep project costs, timelines and maintenance under control.
  3. Options for scheduled or on-demand distribution of reports.
  4. Error and failure monitoring and alerts.
  5. Scalability and performance: If there is a need to distribute reports to hundreds or thousands of users, the reporting automation must integrate well with in-house reporting applications. It should be able to generate the required volumes of reports in the specified time window.
  6. The infrastructure (sizing, upgrades, security, licenses and so on) and support needed to run the distribution should be managed end-to-end by the provider, with minimal ongoing involvement by the business.
  7. Cost: As the number of users grows, the licensing costs of both the BI tool and the automation may become significant.

Leading BI tools like Power BI, Qlik, Tableau and Cognos all provide mechanisms for automated report distribution in some of their licensing plans. But the trade-offs on the above parameters need to be understood before selecting the right BI tool and reporting automation strategy.

BI Helper

BI Helper is a simple, secure and cost effective SaaS solution for PDF report distribution in Tableau and Power BI. You only need a single Power BI / Tableau license to generate your PDF reports.

Resource: BI Helper Tutorial