Reports vs. Queries – What's the difference?

I’m always struck by the confusion that these two terms can create. This becomes most evident during software demos, when vendors are presenting their software to my clients. Clients will ask about “reporting” when they really mean “querying,” and vice versa.

In a nutshell, a query returns “raw data” while a report returns a “pixel perfect” representation of that data (based on a query). The easiest way to think of it is that a query returns of set of data that typically looks like a spreadsheet (i.e., rows and columns of data) and a report returns the data “all dressed up” (e.g., a badge, a membership card, or a report with sums, averages, etc.).

Another way to look at it is that queries are used for internal consumption while reports are used for external consumption. For example, a query will return a set of email addresses that can then be used to broadcast email to, while a report will provide a list of the board of directors, listed in order of position (e.g., chair first, then vice chair, then members) and including the terms for each board member.

Understanding the difference of these two can go a long way toward communicating needs between users or between you and your AMS vendor.

About Wes Trochlil

For a quarter century, Wes has worked in and with dozens of associations and membership organizations throughout the US, ranging in size from zero staff (all-volunteer) to over 700. In that time Wes has provided a range of consulting services, from general consulting on data management issues to full-scale, association-wide selection and implementation of association management systems.

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