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April 3, 2009

The Magic of BI Wizards in Report Development

It's 4:00 on Friday afternoon. You are a report developer. Your project manager comes to you and asks for a last-minute "must-have" report to show in yet one more dimension what the sales status, revenue and costs are by sales territory.

Yes, you know you've already given this report to them in a thousand different ways--but let management be management. Darn. Happy hour is coming up--not just any happy hour, but one in which your best friend is bringing you an promising-sounding blind date. And here you are, now at 4:10 PM, tasked with preparing a report that shows columns so-and-so, has such-and-such pie charts and even an export button to PDF.

The Wizard to the Rescue
Last year, the same situation would have made you (actually, come think of it, did make you) hopping mad. With your antiquated BI solution, you had to hard-code the report, working through the week-end to deliver it to the bigwigs.

This year, however, you have a dynamic, Web-based BI solution that features a wizard-driven development environment. You make a quick note of the requirements from management, and you proceed to create your report.

The elements--such as data layers, report columns, group filters, export action and charts--are pre-built. So all you have to do is launch the wizard, and the rest happens practically at clicking speed. With hopeful visions of your new blind date in mind, you set out to create the report in 45 minutes so you can be out the door by 5.

1 - You create, name and save the new application--which is as simple as right-mouse-clicking on an existing report from your development files, and selecting "new application" and save it with a new name.

2 - You launch the report-creation wizard, which asks you which type of report you want (in this case an SQL-type data table) and which set of objects in your database you want to link to. Click, click. Done.

3 - Within the set of objects, you specify which columns you want visible. Here, you look at your hand-written notes with one eye and with the other follow the mouse as it clicks and drags the columns into the wizard. Double-check--done.

4 - Finish. The wizard has given you your basic report, which you preview in your browser. All A-OK.

6 - You add a PDF export button, with a pre-built PDF export action. All this takes you a whole of a minute, including testing.

7 - Ditto for the group filter and the pie charts. Test. Save. Done.

You now have spent 20 minutes to create and test the report, and you draw a breath. You have still a good 20-minutes before you are out the door. Hmmm... let's give them a little added value and look like a hero...

Your CSS-whiz colleague has created a swanky stylesheet that you can apply to all reports. The development environment lets you simply "apply" a pre-created style to any report, which is what you do in a few clicks.

One last save and preview--all works.

You have therefore created a full report complete with PDF export and visualization tools in less than an hour, with five minutes to spare. You email the URL to the report to the project manager, get your coat, give yourself a quick look in the office-hallway mirror and head to happy hour.

Posted by Hound of the BI-skervilles at April 3, 2009 7:45 AM


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