To enable end-users to see, understand and act upon their data, reports have to be built first. Traditionally, report-building was slow and cumbersome: upper management in the sales, finance, marketing, HR or operation departments tapped IT with one or more report requests; IT interpreted the requests and weeks, sometimes months later the reports were delivered, more or less in line with the main points of the original requests.
Clearly, this old model of report building was a bottleneck. With the advent of modern BI solutions, this model is rapidly becoming obsolete. Through managed and (even more so) ad-hoc reporting, dynamic Web-based BI solutions are used to place more and more reporting power and flexibility in the hands of the end-user.
If we momentarily leave aside ad-hoc reporting, which is the end of the spectrum in which end users have full control of their reports, let’s say a few words on the most innovative report-building model available in today’s BI.
I. Streamlined Development –This approach takes advantage of the self-documenting, intuitive and descriptive nature of prebuilt elements. For example, if you see an Email element in a report, you quickly know that the report form sends email. If you see a User Role element, you know that role-based security is implemented, and you can determine how that security is set up by looking at the attributes that describe the User Role element. Also, less actual coding is required. Using wizards and drag-and-drop, developers can easily build complex reports (for example, with drill-down, data grouping and filtering) without having to build complex SQL queries, subroutine calls or advanced command constructs.
II. Increased Productivity and Faster Deployment –Accomplish report development in a matter of hours instead of the weeks and months that may be required of other development tools due to:
Ease of use and reusability of elements
Logical and hierarchical layout of elements, which makes it easy to understand and manage layout and functionality of larger reports
Ability to change report layouts or functionality ‘on the fly’–just by modifying elements and attributes in the report definition
Based on well-known, non-proprietary open technologies and standards like XML,.NET, SOAP, Web Services, and so on
III. Scalability – This approach leverages multi-tier development and multi-tier deployment inherent in Web-based applications, which is by nature more scalable than license-based or traditional development.