Initially, IT departments handled enterprise reporting at the project level: “This system or application needs these reports.” But organizations have gradually evolved away from asking for “the report this application can produce” and now expect “the information our enterprise needs.” Reporting is now focused on the enterprise as a whole (regardless of the enterprise’s size) and involves the intersection of reports, users, data access and report delivery—an inherently complex problem.
It’s easy to lose track of the purpose of reporting: To make useful information available to users when and where they need it. By focusing on that, Telerik Reporting provides an enterprise reporting solution that isn’t as complicated as the problem.
Once upon a time, we’re told, users required the same, detailed reports every reporting cycle. Today, report users want a dashboard that summarizes critical data into key visualizations with the ability to interactively drill down into the detailed information summarized in that visualization.
But that ignores a substantial group of users who don’t need a fixed set of reports—dashboard or otherwise—because their reporting needs are constantly evolving. In that environment, no set of reports will ever serve these users’ goals for long. Instead, these users need a reporting process that delivers new reports quickly and within tight budgets. In fact, in the long run, those users are everybody in the enterprise: As the world and the enterprise changes, reporting users need new information and reports that allow them to innovate to meet those changes.
And that’s just the user-related challenges—you also have to think about the data your reports depend upon. Users need access to data across the whole enterprise, which means data coming from many sources: relational databases (often from several vendors), Web Services, Excel spreadsheets, business objects and more. Because reporting now spans the enterprise, users also expect to be able to combine data from multiple sources in the enterprise to create the information they need.
Reporting also inherits the issues common to any software solution: Reporting tools need to be scalable, must honor the enterprise’s security and privacy standards, must be accessible and not create barriers between users and their data, must be available on any platform and in any form size, must integrate with the enterprise’s applications (without locking the enterprise into any particular software system), and must be available on any device, running on any platform, in whatever format supports the enterprise’s activities.
Let’s face it: It’s a nightmare. And it really doesn’t matter how big or small your enterprise is because every organization faces all of these issues. Telerik simplifies the problem by integrating report creation and report management.
Telerik Reporting contains three WYSIWYG Report Designers (desktop, web and Visual Studio integrated), which allows users and developers to start creating reports and dashboards quickly and at any level of complexity (or simplicity, for that matter). Once the reports are created, you can use any of the Telerik Report Viewers to integrate with any web development toolset (and many desktop development toolsets).
The report viewers automatically provide a user experience optimized for the user’s platform. The Telerik OLAP data engine is smart enough to generate report data on the server to speed report delivery and then transfer the report’s data to the client so that interacting with the report is nearly instantaneous. The viewers automatically implement the recommended practices in Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 and deliver web content according to the WAI-ARIA standards to eliminate barriers in accessing report information.
And, while Telerik reports can be viewed online on desktops, tablets and smartphones, reports can also be exported to support integrating with business processes: PDF for distribution outside the organization, XLS/XLSX/CSV to manipulate the data in Excel, RTF/XPS/DOCX to integrate into other documents and PPTX to support PowerPoint presentations. Formatting also lets you tailor the look and feel of your reports to incorporate your enterprise’s branding (critical for reports being viewed outside the organization).
If, initially, creating a new report seems daunting, you can use the examples provided on the Telerik site (many industry-specific) as a starting point.
As the number of reports increases, managing those reports starts to matter. Telerik Report Server addresses those needs. Report Server can be downloaded and installed in minutes to provide a web-based user interface that’s accessible anywhere in the organization.
For very small organizations, Report Server may not be necessary (you can save reports into applications as declarative, platform-independent .trdp files or as compiled .cs files). For enterprises with more than a few reports, however, Report Server provides users and developers with a central store for both saving and accessing the declarative report definitions—a one-stop shop for finding reports, either by report category or through Report Server’s search facility. Report Server automatically also takes care of versioning reports so that report developers can revert back to earlier versions, if necessary.
But, on the user side, Report Designer streamlines managing the relationship between users, reports and data to simplify users’ access to both their reports and the reports’ underlying data. Report Server provides report managers with the ability to control who has access to which reports and which data sources.
For example, Report Server takes care of generating reports for users by letting you set up flexible generation schedules for any report. However, producing reports on any schedule can lead to reports being produced even when “nothing interesting” has happened. Report Server’s Data Alerts let you specify conditions for when a report (or set of reports) is to be produced (and will notify users by email when there’s new data available).
On the data side, Report Server lets you define the data connections to be used by reports, simplifying report creation by freeing report developers from having to worry about how data is accessed. For relational data, Report Server supports creating connections for any ODBC data source (specific support is included for SQL Server and Oracle databases). But Report Server also lets you create connections that leverage domain-specific business objects and Web Services (you can also create reports from Excel and XML files). Once created, data connection can be mixed and matched to create reports that combine disparate data sources.
To support the intersection between users, reports and data, Report Server lets you organize user needs into roles that grant read/modification/deletion/creation rights either to a specific report or to any group of reports. Roles also let you control who has access to which data connections, letting you manage security and privacy. Once roles are created, it’s easy to assign them to users in any combination that makes sense for your enterprise (and it’s equally easy to see which users have which roles).
But the key point here is that Report Server and Report Designer recognize that “managing reporting” isn’t the goal of enterprise reporting: The goal of enterprise reporting is delivering useful information to users. By simplifying report creation and management, Telerik Reporting lets you move your reporting focus back to the real goal.
To see what Telerik Reporting and Report Server are like, you can start a free trial. If you want more than just reporting, Telerik Reporting and Report Server are available as part of Telerik DevCraft, which also includes modern feature-rich UI components for web, desktop and mobile applications, document processing libraries and automated testing/mocking tools. Plus, of course, Telerik offers award-winning technical support (delivered by the developers who built the products) and a ton of resources and training material.
Peter Vogel is a system architect and principal in PH&V Information Services. PH&V provides full-stack consulting from UX design through object modeling to database design. Peter also writes courses and teaches for Learning Tree International.
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