InetSoft Webinar: Report Templates and Reusability

This is the continuation of the transcript of a Webinar hosted by InetSoft on the topic of "Best Practices for Reporting." The speaker is Mark Flaherty, CMO at InetSoft.

Alright let's go ahead and move to the next slide. Another best practice that I feel that, or another area where I feel best practices can be incorporated is with report templates and reusability. Now you will see here that there are a lot of common denominators. There are a lot of reusable pieces that appear in a report. It could be the style. It could be format attributes.

It could be the type of guidelines that you use for display like water marking, branding, export formats, thing of that nature. So you should have a supply, as a business analyst, you should have a supply of easily accessible default reports that address the business’s top questions or concerns.

As an analyst begins to gain more traction and experience with their constituents, one thing that will happen is that there will be some patterns that emerge, there will be some consistent deliverables that will emerge. So, ensuring that this information in the report or these templates that are targeted towards correct user scenarios or question that consistently come up is going to be a best practice. So identify and prioritize those top questions that the report should answer or identify and prioritize the top reports that are commonly asked for.

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Surveying is going to be a good technique in this particular case because when you talk with your user community you will perhaps get a survey that will indicate to you what is most popular, what is most consistent, what is most sought after. For example, a recent survey of large and enterprise IT organizations found that the following types of reports are considered most important: availability of the systems, system and network status or health, performing.

And you can think when you apply this to sales or you apply this to the world of finance or you apply this to the world of science, there is going to be a number of what we call most important or top considerations for these organizations. So having those in a default format may speed your time to getting that information back to them. So supplying the reports that your users use most frequently is going to be important in this case. And that’s all I really want to say here.

The reusable elements I would say and attributes would be things like style guidelines, how default attributes appear in a report for instance. What are their characteristics depending on the scenario? What type of style guideline will be used? So, all of these things can be modular. A lot of them are object-oriented so they can be shared among different reports. Of course, you have to have the right solution in place to take advantage of that as well.

On the next slide we will talk more about functional considerations. So in this particular case, it's really important to provide powerful functionality in the report setup. The report itself should be flexible and should be functional for that end-user. Allowing users to tailor the contents of the report means that the report is going to be more useful and precise for them.

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Understanding the business’s scenario or decision making process so that the report setup options allow reports to be generated ultimately to meet the goals of that user. But do not provide a report setup that’s so sophisticated or complicated that it becomes hard to use or hard to manage or hard to set up for instance for report components.

Now typically a business end-user is not going to use a SQL builder, but imagine if there was some custom logic that needed to be added to a report on the fly. You want to keep those things as high level and as least complicated as possible. So, again, try to keep the customizable options simple and straightforward but still very much feature-rich.

Also it's important that users can configure certain things in the report like variable, date and time range, data source, and what type of data to exclude. Also, if the business has a reporting UI, the business analyst community may be submitting the reports to a reporting user interface. It may be on a SharePoint. It may be a Web interface. There may be a number of different portals for the business community to access these reports.

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So ensuring that these users can locate the default reports immediately upon opening the UI is going to be very important. Giving default reports prominence in the feature report menus is something important. And also, yeah, I mean I talked about the report setup by making sure that there is some type of prompt that’s easy to use, a dialog that allows them to work in a wizard driven fashion is always preferable.

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