Versioning and Cutting Hair

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cutting bangs badlyThere is one very big difference between hair cutting and report designing- in hair cutting, there is no going back. However if you are not careful, designing reports can be much like hair cutting, where every move you make has the potential to wreck everything. I have designed a few very large reports over the past few years in Business Objects, or ART if you're reading this from an HMIS perspective. Some of the biggest mistakes I've made in reporting could have been easily managed and rolled back if I had followed this simple rule: use versioning as you move forward with new ideas and code changes! If only versioning could be used by the haircut challenged! Versioning is the process of saving versions of your work and incrementing the version numbers as you go.

Given that my database background does not come from college, and the certifications I got talked more about coding and not at all about versioning, I never really knew it was an obvious thing to do! So, I learned the hard way, though Sarah and the folks at Bowman did save me once by finding and restoring an old version for me.

Since then, however, I have been diligent about stopping to save a new version before I make a major change to a report. Some actions that prompt me to create a quick version are:

  • Adding or drastically modifying a query
  • Modifying a variable that is used elsewhere in the report.
  • Modifying any complicated formulas

When you do "Save As..." in ART, it gives you the chance to rename and select the folder you want the new version saved under. I generally leave the one I'm working on in the same folder and just increment the file name from like 4.2 to 4.3. Once you have done this, you are now working in 4.3 and 4.2 is closed and saved to the same folder in which you opened it. I keep my folders organized by report, so that I have a folder with the name of the report, then a folder under that named "Old Versions". Move the old version 4.2 to that folder, and now it's always clear which version you're supposed to be working in, and the old versions are safely and neatly tucked away in that Old Versions folder.

Another similar trick that has helped me be somewhat daring is to be sure you have clicked Save recently, then once you make a bold move and let's say it does not go as planned, you can either click Undo or if that is not a possibility, or the offending action took place too many actions ago, simply close the report without saving and re-open it. It will be as if you never even did anything!

So, be daring in your reporting ideas but organized in your process, and maybe take it easy on the DIY approach to cutting hair, just saying.