Typically I write about best practices with the goal of helping clients as they work proactively. The goal of this blog post is to help you evaluate your reports to see if they suffer from typical maladies so you can work on improving them. Use this list as a guideline to see if you can improve a report design.
The Kitchen Sink Report – 8.5 x 14, 22 Columns, 7 Point Font
I find many client reports growing in columns over time. This makes the report difficult to read as there are hundreds of numbers per page and the font is very small. While some audit reports need to look like this, it is better to have drill through reports for managers and staff. For example, a top-level report might show total estimate; the drill through can show original estimate and change order columns.
No Date / Time Stamp
Without the date and time showing on a report, users will be rerunning it repeatedly as they won’t know if the data on a printed report is current.
Generic Report Name –.e.G. “Job Report” or “Property Report”
A full title immediately tells the user what the report is for. Without a useful title, you are asking the reader to spend time reviewing the columns to interpret the report’s purpose.
Sorting on an Obtuse Field
If you are running an accounts receivable, accounts payable or tenant report that sorts by the record key, you may be asking the reader to hunt for information. If your record keys look like “ABCD1234,” users outside of accounting will have to scan names to find what they are looking for. Sorting on customer, vendor or tenant name is more intuitive.
Writing a report that takes too long to run
If your report is complex make sure it runs in decent time. Readers want information on a timely basis and don’t like waiting for reports to run – often these reports sit unused on menus. Solutions like anterraDataCenter connect Sage 300 Construction and Real Estate (formerly Sage Timberline Office) data to Microsoft SQL. This will speed up the processing of complex reports, especially when you are consolidating information.
I’ll be blogging about reporting best practices as well. As always I appreciate any feedback or ideas you can share.
About the Author
Bruce Vanderzyde, CA is CEO of Anterra, a software company specializing in construction and real estate business intelligence and SQL data warehousing. Bruce has 20+ years of experience in construction and real estate, including management of a real estate developer and executive positions at Circle and ARGUS software. Bruce is part of a team that has developed hosted business intelligence. Connect with Bruce at LinkedIn or check out his blog. >