Read an Excerpt
Ten Questions to Ask before You Create a Report
In This Chapter
- Finding the special purpose for your report
- Determining what to include in your report
- Getting your report out to the audience
Your boss comes in to your office in a rush stating that she needs asales by salesperson report right away! Now what do you do? Remain calm. You need to ask the person, boss or not, requesting a report the following ten questions. Ten is not a magic number, but Dan Gookin made the Part of Tens famous in Dummies books, so here I go.
What is the purpose of the report?
Is the person requesting this report allowed to access the data? Does the report contain any confidential information?
While writing down the purpose of the report may seem like a useless exercise, it is very important. Doing so allows you to focus on what should or shouldn't be in the report and how the information should be displayed. This question also allows report recipients to know if this is the report that they want to see or if they should go look for another one.
Anytime you write a goal or purpose, you know where you are going with the report. If you don't know where you are going, how do you know if you have arrived?
More and more, companies and institutions are careful about security issues, such as who sees what data. In a hospital, a corrections facility, a school, or a business, some information may not be available to all people. In a company, a person may have to have a security clearance to see certain data. Some financial data may only be distributed to certain people. Some information may be company private or proprietary. Keep these security issues in mind when you create a report.From what databases, views, or tables do you need to include information in this report, and what fields do you want to include in the report?
Data for a report may come from different sources. Record the databases, tables, or views that hold that data you need. You may need to know the exact directories that hold information. You may need to know what network to access. You may need a password to obtain access to some data.
If you have more than one table involved, linking will be needed.
Do you want all the records in the report or a subset?
Women only? Over 60 years old? Transactions for March?
Many reports are run on a monthly, quarterly, or yearly basis. You need to know this information before you create your report. If you don't know, you may be in a position where you are waiting for 15 minutes for a report preview to display because you are looking at data for the last ten years. Whether you are looking for data from a certain region, a certain gender, or a certain time period, you're better off if you can reduce the number of records in your report. The Select Expert can be helpful to you.
How do you want the data grouped?
Find out if the data should be grouped by region, by date, or by alphabet. Some reports may have several groups. A report could be grouped by state, then by gender, and then by age.
How do you want the data sorted?
Usually the two choices are ascending order or descending order. In addition you will want to know if the data should be sorted in ascending or descending order by amount, alphabetically, or some other criteria. As with groups, you may sort alphabetically by state and then sort by amount within those groups.
Another feature of Crystal Reports is that you can create your own style of grouping called custom groups. For example, if you want to group regions by their geographic location, feel free. For more information on this feature, please see the online help.
What summary calculations do you want in the report?
Monthly totals? Grand totals? Averages?
Find out if you need to count the records in the report, get a running total, add summaries at the end of the groups, and other information. Consider whether you want summaries after every group.
What text do you want to appear in the:
- Report Header?
- Page Header?
- Page Footer?
- Report Footer?
- Other Text?
Record the text you want to display in each of these report sections. Decide on which pages you want this text to display. You may want to display some text on the first page, but not on the others. Find out if any other text is required. You may need to describe some of the summary calculations. You may need to add some quotes or expressions.
Do you want certain data to stand out?
You can make data stand out by using flags, special formatting, or conditional formatting. If the person for whom you're creating the report wants the data to stand out, find out how.
This step is for the more sophisticated presentation quality report. Will the report be printed? Will the report be distributed on a network? Do you have a color printer? You can make totals greater than 10,000 appear in red. If you are presenting in black-and-white, then you want to make totals greater than 10,000 appear in reverse image. Based on the report's purpose you can make the critical data stand out.
How should the report be distributed and to whom?
You may have a network, where all the reports are distributed to an Exchange folder or to Lotus Notes. You may want reports uploaded automatically to a company Intranet page. Perhaps you are distributing a report to a group who does not have access to Crystal Reports. Find out if you want to send them a compiled report or if you need to export the report so it can be read by another software product. Table 16-1 gives you some ideas for report format and distribution.
Table 16-1 Report Distribution or Showing Your Brilliance to the World!
|Crystal Report*||Exchange Folder|
|Compiled Report**||Uploaded to HTML (Web site)|
|An Existing Application|
* Receiver has access to Crystal Reports.
** Receiver does not have access to Crystal Reports.
Again, the security issue raises its head. Can anybody see the information in this report, or is it company private, proprietary, or confidential? You're better off to find this information out before you distribute the report.
When do you need to see this report, and when should it be distributed?
You should get into the habit of finding out the due date for activities assigned to you. The person requesting the report may want to see and approve the report before you send it out. Find out if the report has a critical deadline.
Is this how the report should look?
Before you start creating the new report, draw a picture of the report with all the titles, columns, groups, and so on. Get the drawing approved. Then you will have a guideline made for creating the report. Here is how you might make the report look:
If you follow these steps, even in an oblique way, the stress and strain of creating reports is greatly reduced...