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What is Data Drill Down and Drill Through?

Business intelligence is all about transforming raw data into actionable insights, leading to better decision-making, improved efficiency and a deeper understanding of their operations. Data is often aggregated in initial reports to simplify presentation and improve readability. However, these reports might not provide all the necessary context for specific data points. For instance, imagine a sales report showing overall sales figures for different product categories. While these reports are helpful and provide a high-level overview of key metrics, what if a user wants to know the “why” behind the sales numbers. Say they want to know why are sales dropping for a specific category? Or what factors are contributing to the decline? These questions can be answered using drill down and drill through technique. These are the two most important interactive features provided by BI tools, which make the process of data exploration more valuable. But before exploring how these features work, a clear understanding of data drilling is required.

What is Data Drilling?

Data drilling is a technique of business analytics that allows users to explore data to the lowest level of granularity and identify trends and patterns that might get missed in the summarized data. The same data as presented for the first time in a report or dashboard can be viewed from varied perspectives with the use of data drilling.

Business intelligence tools with interactive interfaces that provide data drilling features empower businesses of all sizes and organizational structures to explore the full breadth of their data and discover answers most appropriate for their analytical queries. Within a single report, any number of variations and variables can be visualized and compared. Data drilling enables users to discover hidden trends, opportunities, anomalies and correlations in the data by selecting the dataset under analysis and moving between the various levels and complexities of the dataset. Data drilling offers various techniques to navigate information like drill down, drill through, drill up and drill in, each providing unique ways to filter and analyze data from various angles.

For example, the user starts with a sales overview report that shows the tabular dataset of the sales performance by country. The user might want a more detailed assessment of the sales performance by cities and product categories. Using the data drill down function, the user can discover the reasons behind why certain cities are outperforming others. Once the user is satisfied with the drill down, they can also drill up to see the bigger picture. Further, if any product category stands out and the dataset is detailed enough, the user can drill through and a new chart will be created to show the exact information requested by the user.

The focus area in the dataset can be narrowed and pinpointed using data drilling. This feature makes the analytics reports more useful and the insights generated become more accurate and actionable in the process.

Drill Down

One of the most popular types of data drilling techniques is drill down. Drill down is an action through which the user can zoom in on specific details within a broader category by navigating through a pre-defined, layered data structure. Drill down capabilities allow users to step into the different levels of hierarchical data and visualize information that drives informed decision-making.

Drill down can be accomplished inside a single chart or visualization simply by clicking on data points, modifying parameters and gaining a more detailed picture of the data that reveals patterns and trends that might not be evident at a higher level.

For example, in a chart that shows the revenue of all products offered by a company segregated by regions. The initial revenue might look promising, which would prompt the user to drill down into the sales data and get the data for sales performance by city. Additional drill down can be applied and the revenue information for each product category and product type can be revealed. Through this process, the user has more insight into the performance of their offerings and ideas about how to move forward.

Drill Through

Another important type of data drilling is drill through, which enables the user to visualize additional values and create another report about the specific metric under consideration. Creating a new chart besides the one already there helps understand the context behind the selected data points.

All relevant information related to the same dataset can be analyzed and visualized with drill through. Additional information can be produced as a result without switching to a different data environment. All teams and departments stay connected to the same data and can expand their insights beyond their current reporting and visualization format.

Just as a static report provides contextual data, drill through also gives users this data but in the form of an interactive visual. Drill through helps create new visualizations that are related to the original dataset. The new chart, graph or map gives further interactive abilities to the user and fosters better understanding.

How do Drill Down and Drill Through functionalities differ?

All businesses seek to extract greater value from their data and with data drilling it is possible to explore the various details associated with that data. Both drill down and drill through functions allow users to interact with their data so they can extract more valuable insights, but the purpose of using them differs. Drill down aims to reveal the deeper levels of details present within a specific dataset or hierarchy. Conversely, drill through aims to enrich the understanding of the user by providing additional context or related information about a particular data point.

The data exploration process of drill down focuses on navigating the lower levels of the data hierarchy in a single visualization. This enables the user to zoom into the specified details of the dataset. Drill through involves moving to an entirely different view or report that displays the additional information requested by the user. With two connected visualizations side-by-side, the user can uncover new perspectives and meanings from the same data.

Thus, it can be said that, while both drill down and drill through add value to the data exploration process, they do it differently. Drill down gives the user a way to identify patterns and trends in the data. It makes data exploration more efficient and intuitive because it enables users to navigate different levels of detail within a single view. Drill through, on the other hand, reveals all related information and leads to a richer understanding of the data. It lets users establish correlations between different datasets and improves decision-making with comprehensive insights.

Benefits of Drill Down

There are several business benefits of using the drill down feature that includes –

  1. Interactive data exploration – The reporting process for traditional reports is prone to be crowded with charts and graphs. This is because in order to analyze any new dataset, a new visualization will be created which makes it difficult to find specific information and slows down analysis. Drill down eliminates this issue by allowing users to explore multiple layers of data within a single report. Thus, users can avoid creating numerous reports for different aspects. This simplifies the analytical process, saves time and promotes a more interactive way to analyze data.
  2. Enables strategic decision-making – A dashboard showing all relevant metrics might not be enough to strategize, it requires a deeper understanding of the “why” behind the data. Drill down lets users dig deeper into figures and focus resources to better use. Going beyond the top-level data allows the user to discover the explanations for trends or identify areas needing attention. It empowers businesses to transform raw data into actionable knowledge.
  3. Improved data accessibility for all users – Business data is to be understood and used by a broad range of people, not just data specialists. Having drill down functionality as part of the reporting process makes information more user-friendly. Notwithstanding the lack of technical expertise, data can be analyzed and explored by any user at their own pace. The drill down feature offers a variety of visualizations and lets users choose the format that best suits their needs and gain a clear understanding of enterprise data.

The Role of Data Drilling in Reporting

Data drilling features are imperative to the data analysis process as it makes it easier to explore vast amounts of data and consolidate analysis into a single, interactive report. In the process, businesses can reduce the time and resources required for data analysis. With drill down and drill through, users will be equipped with the ability to analyze data from various angles, understand the root causes of trends and make better data-driven decisions. Overall, data drilling makes the reporting process more efficient, insightful and user-friendly.

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