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Crystal Reports as a Content Creation Application

The measure of any report's value is in its capability to provide the most accurate and timely information to assist the business user in making a more effective business decision. By allowing users to make more informed decisions, reports can increase the competitiveness of organizations, identify and reduce operational costs, and focus an organization's attention on specific performance measures. Crystal Reports offers a powerful design environment for creating highly dynamic and interactive content that aids information consumers in making better decisions—everyday. When you create reports with Crystal Reports, you are creating information content that facilitates action.

What Is Content Creation?

The process of report creation is commonly referred to as content creation. This includes the process of stating the report objective, identifying the required information for a report, accessing the appropriate data source(s), incorporating the necessary data fields and elements, constructing any required elements (such as formulas and calculations), and formatting the report for presentation purposes. For example, to create a new sales report, you will need to know several things:

  1. Objective of the report—Display sales by region for each of the three major product lines.

  2. How the intended audience will use the report (level of interactivity)—Sales managers will need to quickly locate regional sales dollars and units sold for each unique product item.

  3. Where the data resides (data sources)—The primary Sales data resides in an Oracle database, but will need to be combined with data from a Microsoft Access database as well.

  4. Understand what the report will be communicating (data fields and elements)—Sales dollars, units sold, region, product line, and product item.

  5. Format the report for presentation purposes—Add a stacked bar chart at the top of the report showing product line sales figures by region.

Planning Reports

In most business scenarios, reports perform the role of a management tool to help business users quickly grasp the essential elements and relationships found in various organizational data sources. Reports should be well planned with an objective in mind, assisting the targeted users of the report to make more educated and informed decisions. Reports also need to present accurate data in a logical way to be effective. Reports that present inaccurate data or present data in an illogical manner could actually lessen the effectiveness of the decision-making process. It is also important to keep the consumers of a report in mind throughout the development process. Because each consumer of a report has a unique interest and perspective on the data, it is necessary to include the information each one is looking for, and to employ the appropriate mechanisms (prompts, calculations, and so on) to efficiently service the intended audience.

When beginning the report development process, it is good practice to first identify the objective of the report. The report objective should include the anticipated audience for the report, as well as provide both a starting point and a final goal for the report development process.

TIP

Using charts and maps within reports is a good method for quickly and intuitively communicating information to the business users of a report.

Some examples of report objectives are

  • The objective of this report is to show quarterly and annual call volumes by employee, compare this quarter's numbers to last quarter's numbers, and identify the employees whose call volumes are greater than the specified company standards. The audiences for this report are various departmental and cost center managers.

  • The objective of this report is to show weekly sales revenue, cost, and margins by store location and highlight actual sales revenue figures based on their deviation from identified expectations. The report also needs to include alerts that detect and notify the user if sales margins are less than expected. The audiences for this report are North American sales management and various store managers.

Defining report objectives before you begin the report development process is a critical step in the overall success of the report. For more details on how to effectively plan, design, and implement reports, see Hour 5.

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