First Steps in Building a Custom Report

Share on:

A custom report is needed- what are your first steps in building the report? A good first step is to write down exactly what you need to show, who the audience is, who will be actually running the report (if that's different), the data elements you will need to show it, what prompts will be needed, and the basic organization of the report. Writing this down may seem like a waste of time, but getting this down is important because it will (theoretically) head off the necessity to make major changes further into the process.

Next, research your universes if you are not yet familiar enough with them to be sure you know exactly which one will be right for the report you are planning to create. While the universe can be changed later, it is a good idea to choose carefully. To find information about each universe, go to your ART tree, then to the Bowman Systems Resources > Bowman Systems Published Documents > Universe Guides folder. If you are still not sure, it is good to just put in a case to get advice from Sarah at Bowman. She will put you on the right track.

Once you've chosen your universe, you will choose your result objects and add query filters. During this portion of your report building, you cannot yet save your report, so it is good to get a very basic framework for what you are trying to do. Make sure that it is mostly filtered (so as not to pull in too much data when you go to try and run it), but avoid spending a lot of time and effort here doing intricate things before you have a chance to save the report. If you spend too long here (I think it's 15 minutes?), your report will time out and since it had never been saved before, it will literally vanish.

Before you click Run Queries, if you have any prompts set up, go over to the Properties tab in the left sidebar and put them in the order you prefer.

Once you click Run Queries and fill out the prompts, the report will load. It will not be pretty, but save the report so that if there is a crash or a timeout, you'll have a copy to go back to.

Next, it is wise to set up your work environment so that it is how you want it. The things I do at this point are:

Turn Off Auto Merge Dimensions. It automatically creates merged dimensions on similar fields in different queries regardless of if you mean for those connections to be made. Also, it does not name the merged dimensions in a way that is helpful, so I prefer to merge my own dimensions when that time rolls around. The way to do it is right-click the tab name and go to Properties. Uncheck the checkbox that says Auto Merge Dimensions.

Flip "Alphabetic" (is that a word?) to "Query" because it is much easier to see your data elements organized by query that it is to see them organized alphabetically. This setting is in the left sidebar on the Data tab.

Click the fx button. This is the formula bar. You will need that to see the formulas in the cells.

While I'd like to say I also do these preliminary steps, I usually wait on them because I tend to want to get right into coding variables and cleaning up columns. But for those who are more disciplined than I, here are some other ideas about setting up at this point:

Create a header and/or footer variable and place them in the footer. This is a good idea to do early on since as you continue adding tabs to your report, this will then already be part of the page, and there will be no need to go to each tab at the end to add in your footers.

Narrow your margins around the page and set the paper to Letter instead of the British A4. I like to set all my margins to .25 all the way around. Again, this is a good idea since each page should have the same margins and paper size.

Name your tabs appropriately.

Save again! The way I know when to start versioning is I ask myself, "would I mind redoing all what I just did from scratch?" If I say no, then it's not time to create a new version and I simply Save. If I say yes, then it is, and I click Save As..!

Begin cleaning up your columns, creating variables, etc. At this point, you are well into the process! Happy Reporting!