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Four Keys to IBM i Report Writing Software

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Stop-watch-and-keyboard-000045932716_LargeThe four keys for success in IBM i database queries and report writing software can be summed up in the simple acronym ASEF, which stands for:

Analysis
Selection
Extraction
Formatting

All IBM i queries and reports start and end with these four steps. Here’s how each step helps users produce on-target queries every time, and with no programming help.

Analysis

I’ve written before about how programmers shouldn’t be in the report writing business and the advantages of having users generate reports. Good IBM i database query and report writing software answers business questions and satisfies business needs. This requires empowering different types of business users to create, analyze, and report on critical IBM i data, including:

  • Executives and C-suite personnel
  • VPs
  • Line-management
  • Customer-facing and other non-technical business users and managers

It’s a distinct advantage when users from across the business analyze information and produce insights from IBM i data. User-controlled report writing moves report generation from inside IT into the general workforce, where the information will be processed and acted on.

Changing over to user-written reports also comes with its own requirements. Because business users have more bottom line responsibilities outside of analyzing data, database query/report writing software must be easy-to-use and allow users to produce reports without requiring programming techniques.

Selection

Selection is another key to data query and report writing success. Without programmer support, an average user can do the following with a good database query package:

  • Select data by record range and only extract the records they want to view and analyze.
  • Perform wild card record selection, where the software can select records based on partial data matches.
  • Use run time variables to change record selection parameters without changing their underlying report templates, allowing them to create different subsets of the same report data.
  • Join data from multiple IBM i database files to make correlations between like data and to link related information together (such as order information, which is often segmented into different files).
  • Use field selection to add or omit specific fields in the final output, avoiding pulling entire records into your query results.

While I advocate getting IT out of the report writing business, it’s also important to note that your end users will still need some IT support in producing query reports. While IT may not be assembling the final report, your end users will need some assistance in learning your IBM i database structure. Users need to know where and how to pull together the data that they will use to perform their analyses.

Extraction

Extraction capabilities go hand-in-hand with selection capabilities. But while selection deals with the input for a database query, extraction deals with what the final output from your IBM i databases will look like and how it will feed other functions.

Database query and report writing software provides business intelligence (BI) processing. It also serves as a gateway into other BI functions. The reports coming out of your database query software often feed other types of business intelligence and analysis functions. They do this by outputting report data in formats such as XLS and XLSX spreadsheets (for further analysis), PDF documents (for distribution), HTML files (for browser-based reporting), XML (for export), and in formats that can be consumed on desktop, laptop, and mobile devices.

Formatting

Report output must be easy to format. This includes creating and working with report templates that with minor modifications, can be used to generate variations of the same report using different fields or selection criteria.

Other valuable formatting features include adding calculations and results fields to a query, data sorting, and the ability to format special field types, such as dates and currency.

And don’t underestimate the power of color. Many database query and report writing packages allow you to colorize different rows, columns, or individual values based on static or on-demand parameters. Color draws a reader’s attention to the specific values you want to highlight on your final output.

Users generating reports must be able to make query output look good, without having to be a graphic designer or a programmer. Good database query and reporting writing software can help.

Feel free to contact us at DRV Tech if you want to learn more about database query and report writing solutions. Also, be sure to check out the helpful blog posts I’ve listed below for more information on this subject.

Slow is the enemy of our data-driven business world.

 

The Four Pillars of IBM i Database Query Tools

Get Your Programmers Out of the Report Writing Business

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