While I was at DEVIntersection 2017 last week, I got into many wonderful and thoughtful conversations about ActiveReports and the business cases that existing customers use it for and what prospects they're considering it for. The business requirements varied drastically from healthcare-targeted products with end users as nurses to manufacturing and the food industry.

Each conversation was unique but similar at the same time. They were unique in the sense that the business requirements were very different and the type and amount of data that was managed by the reports was quite varied. However, there was a fundamental undertone of the two ecosystems of reporting that seem to be trending.

DEVIntersection Fall 2017

The Enterprise Reporting Ecosystem

These reports are predesigned by the technical team for end users. The users in this case are consuming the reports. Now, this doesn't mean that the users have their hands tied and can't do anything with the reports... or that the reports are static.

Many reports in this ecosystem are still interactive with filters, interactive sorting, dynamic grouping, drill downs, and much more. Users are still able to work with different data by setting parameters that the reports run on.

Another misconception is that enterprise reports are printed for distribution and sharing. That is far from the case with the current trend. End users are subscribing to these reports for email delivery and Windows file share distribution. They are also exporting these reports to other formats like Excel, CSV, and PDF.

End users are subscribing to these reports for email delivery and Windows file share distribution.

However, with that said, these reports are preset in the business logic and datasets they use. The KPIs they present to decision makers are based on predefined requirements and predesigned logic.

These reports range from the more static and regulated invoices, lab reports, portfolios, financial statements, executive summaries, general ledgers, monthly reports, and inventory reports, to other business reports which become the "stock" or "standard" reports in a business application.

ActiveReports Developer and ActiveReports Server together serve this ecosystem quite well with features for data governance (shared datasources, shared datasets), a web-based portal, a developer and BI analyst Report Designer integrated with Visual Studio or available as a stand-alone Windows app, and many more powerful reporting features developed over the 20+ years ActiveReports has been helping developers embed interactive reports in their business applications.

The Self-Service BI Ecosystem

This ecosystem has a different paradigm to reporting and a different approach towards providing data to end users. The fundamental tenet of this approach is that end users don't know the business questions or want to ask totally new questions from the business data. Thus, the target of tools addressing Self-Service BI business cases focus on structuring data in a way familiar to the business users. The goal here is to help the business user ask the questions from the data without requiring the user to be technically up-to-speed with query languages.

The goal of self-service business intelligence is to help the business user ask the questions from the data without requiring the user to be technically up-to-speed with query languages.

The target of this audience is to find new trends in business data that will help with future strategies and decision-making processes. On one hand, these reports have more charts and data visualizations. On the other hand, some reports only require access to data to be able to include in letters or labels.

Some examples of the customizable operational reports are letters, labels, name tags, nurses notes, field sales notes, and appointment logs. Some examples of data exploration include trend reports, Year-on-Year (YoY) comparisons, Month-to-Date (MTD) and Month-on-Month (MoM) comparisons, and others based on ad-hoc questions from business users.

ActiveReports Server's semantic model provides a hierarchical data model for end users to use with the HTML5 web-based designer. Using the designer, end users can access structured related data to explore and identify trends using pivot tables (Tablix), tabular data, charts, sparklines, and bullets for data visualization. End users are also able to create sophisticated drilldown reports with multiple data sources which enable multi-level data, starting from top level summary reports to detailed data. While the end user has the flexibility to explore the data to identify trends, the administrator still has full governance on the data and its structure as the designers of the semantic model.

So which ecosystem does your requirement fall under? I wouldn't be surprised if you said "both."

Watch this space for articles on more use cases for both Enterprise Reporting and Self-Service BI.

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