There’s more to IBM i report automation than emailing reports to users.
IBM i spooled files (reports) contain compiled information on an organization’s health, operations, and opportunities. These reports are secondary databases that with the right software, can be accessed, reformatted, and delivered to anyone, anywhere, anytime.
If you want to broaden the reach of your IBM i spooled files, here are three steps you can take to get started with an IBM i report automation and distribution solution.
1. Convert and deliver IBM i spooled files using universal file formats
The first step is to convert IBM i spooled files into documents that can be used by anyone on any device. Your associates and partners don’t need to connect to your IBM i. They can use universally accepted applications such as Adobe Acrobat Reader or Microsoft Excel to view and analyze IBM i report data.
Many IBM i third-party software packages such as my SpoolFlex spooled file distribution software easily convert report information into popular formats such as HTML, MS Excel, PDF, MS Word, or text files. And when you convert this information into a PC format like XLS, your recipients can perform further analysis on spooled file data.
Converted reports can be delivered to outside users or transferred to another server for access and analysis. Being an open system, the IBM i operating system offers several transfer methods for delivery, including FTP, zipped files, SQL and ODBC, direct transfer to another server, and of course, email.
The purchase costs for spooled file distribution software are inexpensive enough that it’s much more cost effective to buy a package, rather than trying to program a spooled file conversion and delivery utility yourself. You don’t need a programmer to perform these functions. There’s good off-the-shelf software available that can do it for you.
2. Reformat reports for distribution
Due to the age of your reports or whom they’ll be distributed to, you may need to tweak or modify report information before sending it out. Here are a few situations where you might need to clean-up a report for distribution.
- Changing company names in report headings after a merger, acquisition, or new affiliation
- Rearranging column data to different locations so relevant data is presented together
- Combining multi-line data such as order information into a single line, which can be output to a single Excel spreadsheet row for sorting and analysis
- Bursting a report to deliver sub-reports to different users
- Changing SCS spooled files so they can be converted into a universal format such as PDF or Excel
Many spooled file distribution packages and associated products such as DRV Tech’s ReportFlex software, provide these capabilities. They revitalize older reports, making them more accessible to a wider audience.
3. Secure protected information in distributed reports
While it’s great to share spooled files with other users, you may not be able to share everything on those reports because of privacy and regulatory requirements, such as PCI, HIPAA, or SOX.
If you’re in a hospital or other organization that has sensitive or protected information, you may need to distribute reports with restricted information removed or secured. A good spooled file distribution package allows you to deliver report information without compromising protected information, by doing the following.
- Masking out sensitive fields such as patient information, account numbers, or social security numbers
- Encrypting and password protecting converted PDF spooled files to insure that only authorized users can see that data
- Archiving delivered reports so that you can audit who received which reports and when they received the reports
With more requirements to protect sensitive information coming all the time, these features allow you to distribute valuable data without violating existing laws and confidences.
These are the basic building blocks of an effective IBM i report distribution system. Please feel free to contact us at DRV Tech to learn more about setting up your own report automation and distribution system.