Sep 132011
 

This month’s TSQL Tuesday topic: Data Presentation.

I am not going to show any code this month, and I am also going to veer off the topic of SQL server slightly.

My company does a lot of reporting though Cognos.  The nice thing about Cognos is that it is platform independent.  Once a connection is made to an Oracle, MSSQL, or even MySQL database, the presentation looks the same to a report developer.  The end user goes to the URL for cognos and runs their report.  They may not even know what application or technical backend is supplying the data.

We have LOTS of reports that get run across the enterprise.  We also probably have a couple hundred report developers that write reports with varying degrees of frequency.  I’m sure you can imagine that without any standards no two reports would look similar and end users would not know how to use or interpret the information that they get out of a report.  Hence why data presentation is so important.

There are several standards that have to be met in our environment in order for a report to be published for end users.  While I don’t think it would be appropriate for me to show you any screenshots, I can summarize some of the general rules here.

  1. All reports must use the corporate header and footer.  Information included must contain the business unit for the report, Title of the report, corporate logo, confidentiality statement, page numbers, and telling how to best view the report (ie: html, pdf, Excel, etc.)
  2. The last page of the report must be the standard documentation page.  This page has a table with specific information recorded about the report including:
    • Report Purpose: A general description of what the report is and how it should be used.
    • Data Source: name of the server, database, or application where the data in the report came from.
    • Author: who wrote the report, and how to contact them with questions.
    • Security: Security requirements of the report.  Does it contain confidential information? Who or what security groups are allowed to run the report.
    • Business Logic: List of information that may be critical to interpreting the report.  For example, “Annual sales figures are calculated based on the fiscal year of July 1 to June 30 in this report”.  Also list any abbreviations that everyone may not know.  For example, “AHG = Average Height by Gender (I made that up)”.
    • Assumptions: What assumptions, if any, were made while writing the report.   I have also seen some report authors insert any user defined variables here.  This way when someone runs a report and they think that it is wrong, the report author can see exactly what values the user entered into the prompt boxes as a point to start troubleshooting.

The documentation page on a report becomes a valuable tool for anyone trying to understand a report and also very useful for someone who is troubleshooting a report.  Of course it is also helpful when an end user does not delete the documentation page…..

  One Response to “T-SQL Tuesday #22 Data Presentation”

  1. [...] Nelson, at NelsonsWeb.net, discusses reporting using Cognos, which can render reports that create the same presentation layer, independent of which database [...]

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