Earlier this year, I wrote a blog talking about the following efficiencies your IT department, your IBM i partitions, and your organization can realize by using professionally written software to generate and deliver queries and reports.
- Programmer efficiency – Good professional tools make it easier to quickly produce and distribute new reports, without using expensive and scarce programmer time
- Business efficiency – Tools allow non-programmers to deliver new reports faster, without having to deal with IT backlogs and fight against priority projects
- Processing efficiency – Good database query and report writing tools can process database records more efficiently and use fewer system resources than using standard IBM i programming techniques
- Scheduling efficiency – Digitized reports and documents can be automatically distributed from your database query and report writing tool, rather than needing to be included in your IBM i job scheduling software
Since writing that post, I’ve found that a great database query and report writer tool like my DBXFlex package can bring even more efficiencies to an organization as compared to Do-it-yourself (DIY) programming. Here are three more areas where using a professionally written package can make an organization more efficient and effective.
It’s a major hassle to manually or programmatically convert IBM i reports to popular universal formats such as PDF and .XLS. I’ve written before about how difficult it can be to export IBM i reports to PDF, even when using IBM’s native PDF conversion tool. And there are at least three costly errors people make when converting reports and downloading database files to Excel spreadsheet formats.
Good database query and report writing software can easily be set up to run queries over IBM data and then automatically deliver its query output in PDF or Excel formats. With database query software, report writing and file conversion are one and can be accomplished within a single job.
In addition to its analysis and download capabilities, some database query packages can extract an entire IBM i database file (or files) to a digital format using wildcard processing. For example, if you needed to select and digitize all the IBM i records for a certain customer from December 2015, you could efficiently and accurately do that just by using your query and report writing software. Database reporting and extraction can also be done by menu-driven software, eliminating the need for a programmer to write extraction code.
Some people think of IBM i reports as dull and boring, even when they’re exported to another format such as PDF. Organizations either settle for black-and-white column and row formats or use a two-step process to export their data and reports to a universal format and then use a PC-based program or server to format the data in a more colorful and interesting presentation.
That’s not always necessary when using the right IBM i package.
Many IBM i database query and report writing packages can dynamically colorize report columns, rows, or individual values based on static or on-demand parameters. You can also use query output as an input to other IBM i paperless processing packages, such as IBM i document management software where your query data can be merged with an electronic form and automatically delivered to your users. Or you could export a query report into a report automation package that performs further formatting and delivery.
By itself or combined with another IBM i package, you can extract, report, and perform analysis on IBM i data AND perform all the formatting you need to deliver a high quality, visually interesting report to your users. All this report formatting can occur directly on your IBM i. There’s no need to extract and reprocess the data on another platform. The right software decreases the time needed to prepare data for presentations, increasing the efficiency of delivering quality reports.
Without database query and report writing software, programmers have to clone existing report code to produce new reports that are similar to but not exactly the same as existing reports. This is a time consuming process. With a good report writing package, reports can be saved as templates which can be easily duplicated, modified, and put into production, again without using a programmer. Report writing software produces new reports faster by providing a library of existing reports that can easily be cloned.
Efficient, Effective, Valuable
Although I’m looking at how database query and report writing software adds efficiencies to your organization, that not’s the primary reason you use it. Organizations use this software for analysis and reporting, to answer business questions and to satisfy business needs. That’s why it’s valuable.
You have two choices in providing an IBM i analysis and reporting solution. You can either “roll your own” solution with DIY programming or use a commercial database query and report writing package to analyze IBM i data.
It’s important to understand what efficiencies a commercial package brings in meeting your goals, especially in terms of allowing business users to create data (programmer efficiency); deliver information faster (business efficiency); make better use of IBM i system resources (processing efficiency); deliver output in a timely manner (scheduling), convert data to e-formats (conversion efficiency); effectively present your results (presentation efficiency); and store and re-engineer existing reports in new formats (cloning efficiency).
There are many affordable IBM i database query and report writing packages that provide all of these capabilities. And it’s worthwhile to look at your options that next time you’re asked to provide a new analysis report using DIY techniques. Also be sure to check out the blog posts I’ve linked to below for more information on this topic.
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