My personal philosophy has always been: if you need a programmer to set it up and use it, it’s an outdated software model.
That’s especially true in the IBM i query tool and report writing world. IBM Power servers are rich databases of business information but too often, it requires a programmer to extract and report on that information.
Programming time is too expensive to waste on report generation. In most cases, end users can produce the reports they need, if they have the proper tools and training.
To reach this goal, here are eight ways to empower your users to create and distribute reports based on your IBM i databases.
- Get your programmers out of the report writing process
- Secure your IBM i data
- Let the users perform their own analysis
- Remember your secondary IBM i database: spooled files
- Document your databases
- Train your users for querying data and writing reports
- Brighten up your presentation with overlays, colors, and other options
- Automate, automate, automate
To save time, I’ll talk about these techniques in two posts. Today’s post will cover the first four ways. Next week, I’ll talk about the last four ways to empower your users.
#1 – Get your programmers out of the report writing process
The first step is to completely get your programmers out of the report writing business. Here are the two main goals you should shoot for in creating a report writing environment where users not programmers, create reports.
- Your programmers should not spend time coding reports based on IBM i data
- Your programmers should not spend time coding/generating apps to produce reports
Both goals can be accomplished with professionally developed software like DRV Tech’s DBXFlex software. These packages are easy to use, fairly priced, modular (you only pay for what you use), and they are ready to go out of the box. User-report generation shouldn’t be a DIY project. You’ll have more success with a professional package that empowers your users to create their own queries and reports.
#2 – Secure your IBM i data
IBM i security implications come into play when empowering users for query and report writing. Users who create reports need read access to any and all IBM i files they need to query.
Providing database read access takes planning from your security officer. Here are some considerations in authorizing user access to database files for report creation.
- Some older apps are secured by menu access, rather than user access – Packages may use adopted authority and the user may have access to the database only while running the software. Separate authorities may be required for query/report writing.
- Sensitive database access requirements – Report writing users need to be authorized to view and manipulate sensitive data. This will help determine who can and cannot report on different functions.
- Auditing permissions – Users may need to be authorized to audit-restricted OS features, such as command line access and remote access. Users need to be approved for and added to authorization lists to avoid audit violations.
#3 – Let the users perform their own analysis
Many IBM i query tool and report writing packages allow you to export data in universally accepted formats such as XLS, HTML, DOC, and other file types. Users can reimport these exported files into their own analysis tools, such as Microsoft Excel.
In addition to writing reports for your users, look at allowing users to import relevant IBM i data into external packages and letting them perform their own analysis.
#4 – Don’t ignore your secondary IBM i database: spooled files
There is a second source of IBM i database information that shouldn’t be ignored when setting up report writing software: your spooled files.
IBM i spooled files contain pre-compiled information on your organization’s operations, opportunities, and overall health. These are ready-made reports that can also be modified, converted, or distributed using third-party packages such as DRV Tech’s SpoolFlex spooled file distribution software and ReportFlex report re-formatting software.
Existing spooled files often answer reporting needs. When appropriate, use file distribution and report re-formatting software in place of a report writing package.
More to come
There are several more techniques and considerations when setting up your users to create and distribute their own reports. I’ll cover four more ways in next week’s blog. If you’re interested in creating your own report creation and distribution, be sure to contact DRV Tech for more information.