Reporting Tool: M2Soft

By: Jim Mattson

So your organization has a lot of data, securely stored in a data warehouse. Without a reporting tool however, that data is just going to lie there. Till eternity! An easy to use, customize and deploy reporting tool is what differentiates a metrics and data driven organization from a bat flying without a sonar.
If you just have a simplistic data reporting requirement, such as reporting "my website got 157 visitors today" or "I sold 231 widgets this week", you should probably write a custom reporting tool. It would be hard to justify a fancy 3rd party reporting tool for something you could roll in a few hours. However, life (and reporting requirements) are rarely that simple. Often you have to provide reports to many departments. Each of the departments have their own reporting requirements, some requiring complex charting features causing a need for a full fledged reporting tool.
The third party reporting tools often have pre-built templates which allow faster report generation. In a well thought out reporting tool, the templates allow you reports that are customized for different departments using wizards. Great results with little effort.
The management of your organization often needs to look at Key Performance Indicators(KPIs), while the different departments need the nitty gritty details. While the KPI's change, so flexibility in a reporting tool is good, the third party reporting tools really shine when it comes to the user created reports.
Let's take an example: The marketing department is trying to track and report the results of numerous campaigns that they have been running.

They have bought a space on the billboard, an ad running every Sunday for 6 weeks in a newspaper and an online advertisement. If they ask you(the IT department) to create a report, that report will most likely not be useful for very long. This is because their focus, promotions and campaigns will keep changing and just one report will not be able to capture the information. There are two solutions to this problem. The old resource hungry solution is that they dedicate a few IT guys just to generate new reports as the needs keep changing. It's slow, and takes something away from the creativity of the marketing guys as they have to wait for the IT to finish the reporting process.
A better reporting solution for such a scenario is for the IT guys to create a flexible reporting system using tried and tested third party reporting tool. Once the system is deployed, it should allow the marketing department to create ad hoc reports. Why can't your own reporting tool do the same? Well, there is no rule which says it can't, but it is often a good decision to rely on reporting tool vendors whose focus is giving a full featured product to their customers. Their tools have often been through a QA cycle, feature review, and are designed to be generic. The result is a flexible reporting tool solution. Trying to replicate that level of functionality in a reporting tool, when the core competency of the organization is something else, is often not cost effective.
Another point to consider is how you are going to deliver the data to the customers. Are you going to email it to your management, send them a link for web connection, intranet, extranet or write a desktop reporting tool which grabs the data and reports it. Or all of the above. You will have to write a distribution mechanism for each channel. A third party reporting tool will often be written with the plumbing for all the distribution mechanism. Making the distribution of the reports a cinch. An easy reporting tool distribution mechanism often means that you don't have to waste time on implementing resource intensive report distribution details.
A very important consideration while designing a reporting tool system is the security and access to information. The HR does not need to know the weekly sales figure, and the marketing department does not need to know the salary of their VP. In designing a reporting system for the whole organization, such data has to be protected in order to give out information on a need to know basis. A generic reporting tool often has a well thought out security system, which has to implemented for a homegrown reporting tool.

In short, while the reports can be created in an in house system, for sophisticated reports with complex charting capability, ad hoc queries and security, it is often cost effective to utilize a third party reporting tool.
For more information about reporting tool visit: http://m2soft.co.kr/english/reporting-tool.asp

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