Wednesday, 17 September 2014

The Reporting Hierarchy

Gbgsoft has evolved a reporting philosophy and developed supporting technologies that address the very real need for clients to retrieve and analyze their data. We call this the ‘Reporting Hierarchy’.

Here are its precepts in order of importance:

If it’s important, then it should be on the screen, accessible in a meaningful way. The best report is one which will never be printed.

Business logic should be encapsulated in the base system and the results of that logic should be exportable to other programs like Excel and desktop publishing. We have developed a technology we call QBE (query by example) where the user can access the central queries they use to work with the data and then select the fields that they wish to export. The mechanism makes no judgments about how the data should be represented: that is under the control of the user.

Sometimes we have a query that encapsulates detailed business logic that needs be run periodically against a set of replaceable parameters. For example, we want a list of active items in our database where the definition of ‘active’ encompasses a range of dates, or perhaps the interpretation of a data field. This logic can be captured, given a name and run repeatedly as needed. The results are then QBE’d out. We call this a pre-built query.

More rarely, you just need a report whose format and logic seldom if ever change. An aged receivables list is an example. The logic of the business need dictates not only a repetitive parametrized query but also mandates a format each time the process is run. We have developed a very flexible and low cost reporting tool that is superb at producing columnar reports (including sub-sections). The tool creates PDF files by default, and the data can also be exported to a spreadsheet. The report can even be printed!

Lastly, there are complex reporting needs that require specialized programs that can analyse data into highly customized formatted reports. Examples of these are Crystal Reports, Jasper Reports and Businesses Objects (a web-served version of Crystal). These engines offer very sophisticated reporting technology which now encompasses data warehousing and OLAP data cube capabilities. These programs are expensive and require a highly skilled person to use them.  Resorting to these solutions should only be considered after the other elements of the hierarchy have been explored and exhausted.

Written By: Rick Gregory

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