Up your report design game in your Sage construction software

by Ruth Stockdale, Director of Professional Services 

Old principles and new options

Design with your goal in mind

Someone has asked you for a report. It could be a list of jobs, or a detailed analysis of vendor payments. How do you proceed? One of the first things to clarify is what is meant by “report.” Our traditional definition would be data that is displayed on a printed document, but our expectations and capabilities have moved far beyond that.

  • An Inquiry or Query is generally a way to pull data from your database without creating a printed report; perhaps a subset of targeted or specific information.
  • A Dashboard is a digital display of information that is usually based on the same contents as a printed report (which can often be customizable according to user profile).
  • Reports are generally lengthy or detailed data that contain some type of business intelligence or actionable statuses. They are often delivered in formats for use in Excel, or as .pdf files. And there are now multiple design tools to use!

All of these report styles share the same fundamental goal—to deliver information to a specific audience in a meaningful format. Because of that, there are some basic principles that will always apply to the design process. Check out the list below. If you have designed reports before, you can see some recommendations that we have always made. But we also updated the list to help plan for new options.

Basic steps for design

Identify the overall layout

Define the content and column layouts, subtotal and total placement, and any calculations that are needed. You can use Excel to mock-up a version, or just make a sketch on paper. You can also take an existing report and make notations on it.

Make detailed notes on the mock-up

List the source of the information – employee record, PR check record, Property/Unit, for example. Show any graphics that might be needed, including color coding. Define any prompts on the report that would help condition or filter the data. Date Range, Job Status, Zip Codes for Vendors are examples. If the viewer will need to add their own information, plan for the best way to deliver the core data in the format they can add to—usually Excel. If the mock-up shows too much data to view easily, consider an initial summary page with the ability to drill into more details.

Determine who will run the report and when

If the intended audience does not have access to the reports menu, you might also need to push the report to them, rather than having them pull it. This would also lead to a more standard format, such as Excel or .pdf. If the report is only used one time, that might lead to a less polished and time-consuming design. If the report is recurring, you will want to make it as easy to deliver as possible. If it is on a dashboard, you need to know if the data will need to refresh automatically or on-demand.

Options for creating the report

Use an existing report

This could be a canned report or one that was already customized for you. Minor modifications could be made, but you need to weigh the work to change the design compared to starting fresh.

Design the report yourself or contact a consultant

You may have the skills or training to work with report design tools. You may have some skills but need some assistance or direction. Or you may not have experience with any of the reporting options. In any case you can contact us to advise you on the options, including Webinars on report designing. Also, check out previous articles on reporting in our newsletter. Your preparation of the mock-up and notes ahead of time will help, whether you design the report yourself or not.

Select the design tool

Your mock-up and notes will also help with this selection. Requirements for the delivery mode, drill-down detail or other specifications may determine the best option. Regardless of whether you are using Sage 100 or Sage 300 CRE, you have canned reports, built in report writing tools, and access to outside tools.