In our previous blog, I started talking about empowering your IBM i users to create and distribute reports based on your databases. I listed the following eight ways users can get started with producing their own reports:
- 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 presentations with overlays, colors, and other options
- Automate, automate, automate
I looked at techniques 1-4 last week. This week, I’ll discuss techniques 5-8.
#5 – Document your databases
The hardest thing about report writing is learning the databases and how they relate to each other. Which databases contain order or shipping information? What files contains product names that can be matched to invoice data? It’s not always obvious where the company gems are.
To enable user report creation, provide at least a cursory guide to your IBM i database files and what’s in each file. A good guide might include:
– What libraries contain what types of data?
– Which files contain which types of data (order processing, accounting, sales data, etc.)
– What are the main keys for each file?
– Suggested secondary files and keys that they might want to combine information for
The more information you can provide your users on file contents, the better. While it doesn’t take a programmer to create reports, you may need a writer to create good solid documentation your users can use.
#6 – Train your users for querying data and writing reports
Once your users know which files contain the information they’re interested in, they need to know how to manipulate the software. And that takes some training.
Training materials take all shapes. Some of the more common items to try train your users in how to use the software. Users who don’t understand tools won’t use tools, include:
- In-house documentation that shows users the basics of the software as well as database documentation and techniques that are specific to your organization
- In-house or roadshow classroom training where organizational trainers demo and help the users get acquainted with the software. These classes can also be set up as Webinars for off-site users.
- Collaborative or social software setups where users can exchange ideas, tips, and techniques on how to use the software
- Vendor-provided conferences centering on their product lines and how to use them
- Contracting with your query tool/report writing vendor to provide custom Web-based or on-site training specific to your organization
Training can be as basic or as advanced as you’d like. But by all means, train your users in how to use the software. Users who don’t understand tools won’t use tools. Good training produces good results.
#7 – Brighten up your presentation with overlays, colors and other options
While you’re training your users, don’t forget to show them the more advanced report writing and spooled file distribution features such as merging form overlays with spooled file output, adding color to reports, and other features that add more punch to your reports and make them look more professional.
#8 – Automate, Automate, Automate
Use automation tools in your report writing software to your advantage. Most report writer and spool file distribution packages have capabilities to:
- Create report templates, layouts, and organization-specific formats to enable you to use a pre-generated common look when generating new reports
- Take advantage of built-in schedulers (which run outside of common IBM I job scheduling software) to run and deliver reports on a regular schedule, such as a weekly inventory report or sales ledger
When users write reports, it’s in addition to their regular duties; it doesn’t replace their other duties. Use the automation features of your query tools and report writing software to help them locate, format, and manipulate the information they need, without sacrificing the business- and customer-facing tasks they need to accomplish.
If you’re interested in creating your own report creation and distribution system, be sure to contact DRV Tech for more information.