Plan Your FileMaker Report then Report Your Plan

From Dwayne Wright PMP, PMI-ACP, CSM
Certified FileMaker Developer

TWITTER: dwaynewright
YOUTUBE: FileMakerThoughts

Before you go into layout mode to create your new report, you probably should take a step back and look at what you really want the report to do for you first. In most cases, a report is designed to give you feedback about what is going on with the data inside your FileMaker solution. If your FileMaker solution is running on all cylinders, then your report will tell you want is going on with the business (in regards to the parameters of the report). Abstracting that concept a bit further, the report will tell its audience ...

- things are unbelievably good
- things are good but look at this dip over here
- things are about the same
- things are not as good as we hoped
- things are not very good at all

and of course my favorite ...

- things are ... “what the devil does this mean?”

Reports are designed to help those that read them make educated business decisions based upon organized data. Sometimes the business decision is that no new decisions have to be made, but that is still a decision.

In some cases, you may tweak an area of the business that you are reporting on and then run that report frequently to see if the business tweak is returning positive results or perhaps additional tweaking is necessary.

So reports are a process of going from the top view downward, so starting with the end in sight for your FileMaker reports is generally a good idea. In many cases, it is not a bad idea to plan and document the reports you want from a database BEFORE YOU CREATE THE DATABASE! This is because reports organize data into information and that organization is database structure dependent.

One good way to plan your report is to draw it out on paper. This is very old school but it is also very low impact. When you take a drawing of a report to someone for feedback, they know it is just a rough draft. They can focus on the intent of the reports purpose and not the data within it.

Another good but totally opposite way to plan your report is to do a mock one in FileMaker or Excel. This is also a great way to organize your thoughts and illustrate them to others for feedback. However, I have found that computerized reports seem to draw people to the data, even if you tell them the data is bogus. Handwritten reports seem to be a bit more effective in overall report planning that benefits from the feedback of others.

By the way ...
Reports can also be found set dependent, because they report on a given slice of the overall information. So you might need to make sure you have searchable and sortable fields readily available for your reports to use. Take that into account when you are designing the actual report itself.
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© 2008 - Dwayne Wright -

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