Reports & visualizations

Why do we need them?

Making sense of data in a spreadsheet can be a daunting task. Using reports and visualizations, the DSI team can help you make sense of those numbers, so you have a clearer picture of what your data is trying to tell you and you can make data-driven, fact-based decisions.

A good visualization can tell you quickly how much progress you've made toward your goals, help you identify any areas that need attention, indicate potential causes of shortfalls, and help you understand what corrective actions you might need to take to stay on course.

What's the difference?


Reports are generally made up of static raw numbers, presented primarily in tables. The DSI team uses Microsoft® SQL® Server Reporting Services (SSRS) for reports.

Good for:

  • Displaying large amounts of textual data
  • Handling lengthy, multipage reports
  • Drilling down for more information, and drilling through from one report to another
  • Controlling formatting and object placement
  • Imbedding sub reports into the main report
  • Visualizing data (though Tableau is a more accurate tool for this)


Visualizations are generally interactive graphical representations that help users understand and explore the meaning behind the numbers. The DSI team uses Tableau as its primary visualization tool.

Good for:

  • Displaying high-level, aggregate information
  • Integrating multiple visualizations into dashboards
  • Interacting with data
  • Linking visualizations and dashboards together
  • Providing a variety of analytic tools, functions, and visualizations

What is Microsoft® SQL® Server Reporting Services (SSRS)?

SSRS enables the creation, management, and delivery of reports for pixel-perfect printing, interactive Web viewing, and ad hoc data exploration.


What is Tableau?

Tableau connects easily to any data source and allows for instantaneous insight by transforming data into visually appealing, interactive visualizations called dashboards.