Seasoned IT veterans may remember, or even still use, bursting machines, or bursters. They’re big clunky devices that physically separate printed multi-part forms for easy distribution.
The idea is simple. You feed a printed two-, three-, or four-part form into one end of the burster. Using belts, wheels, and cutting edges, the burster ingeniously separates the multi-part forms into small piles of single-part forms that come out the other end for distribution to different groups.
While physical bursting technology is still in use, it’s also evolved and migrated to software, where reports are now separated and sent electronically via fax or emailed PDFs, Excel spreadsheets, or in other formats. Bursting still lives; only its form has changed.
You may even have your own bursting capabilities in an IBM i spooled file conversion package such as my own SpoolFlex software, and not realize it. Here are five simple ways you can leverage a package like SpoolFlex to provide advanced bursting capabilities for better report separation, archiving, and distribution.
1. Report splitting for distribution and archiving
The genius of bursting is it allows you to print a report once and then separate it and distribute it to many people. Take a 1,000-page general ledger report, for example. Using SpoolFlex, you could separate that ledger into 1,000 1-page sub-ledger reports and email each department head their own individual GL. Report splitting allows you to deliver sub-reports without manual separation or additional programming.
2. Sorting the reports for better processing and data analysis
A program like SpoolFlex can take a 10,000 page invoice file and select and sort it by multiple fields, such as customer number (to review the invoices generated for your largest customers), zip code (to take advantage of bulk mailing rates), or tax ID number (for sales tax reporting). Sorted sub-reports can be emailed to different distribution lists so again, the people who need the information get the information and nothing else. And this can all be done without additional programming or manual processing.
3. Extracting and delivery of key information
For a daily sales report, the CEO may be interested in the one-page summary while the VP of sales may want all the data for her groups. You could set up your report conversion package to send the summary page to the CEO and send the sales data to the proper groups. Everybody gets what they want from one run of the sales ledger.
4. Archiving your reports
As reports and sub-reports are created, you can archive them to storage for easy retrieval for research, audits, historical comparison, or other purposes. You could run a set of reports specifically for an audit and automatically archive each report to an auditor folder.
5. Auto–convert reports for different audiences
SpoolFlex and other conversion software can output reports in different formats. You could send an Excel-based inventory report to your materials control group so they can sort by different parameters (such as products approaching reorder point). You could also send that same report in PDF format to other staff members who only need to read the report, instead of manipulating the data.
Spooled file conversion packages such as SpoolFlex are extremely flexible. They allow you to send and receive reports in whatever formats or sub-sets you need, and then store the reports for later retrieval. If you haven’t explored these capabilities, be sure to check them out. There’s a lot of valuable information hiding in reports that your organization can leverage for better results.