We all know Vision has an impressive arsenal of standard reports which can be configured in an astounding number of ways, but in my 7+ years of supporting the product and helping to develop standardized reports for both clients and companies I’ve worked for, meaningful reporting is still a challenge. What seems intuitive to some of us is down-right overwhelming to others and often Owners, Divisional Managers, Project Managers and even Accounting Staff find it extremely difficult to standardize their reporting so that everyone is seeing the same data in the same manner.
Here are just a few of the challenges and complaints I’ve heard over the years:
- I don’t know which reports provide which information.
- It’s too time consuming to build a report the way I need it with the right information….too much trial and error.
- Making favorites is not that intuitive and they’re too hard to share across differing levels of access etc.
- I create a favorite report that I want my staff to use but then they make changes to the options before running it and see different information
- I have to create the same report over and over for different people in our management hierarchy
No doubt there are many more challenges that people run across as well but you get the point.
The One-click Approach
Okay so what exactly is the one-click approach you say? Well in a nut-shell we set up Vision so that our end-users don’t have to think about all those report names, option sets and lookups. Obviously we still need to have someone in the organization with a strong understanding of the reports, options sets, look-ups, favorites, etc. to design our reports, however instead of leaving it in the hands of the end-users to fiddle about, we package them up how the mangement team wants them and make them accessible with one click. At the end of the day we want our PMs and others to get the right information every time and not have to struggle to obtain it. The inability to get information quickly is in and of itself, a huge contributing factor to a lack of user adoption, the tendency to track information outside of Vision, etc.
The First Step
Before we start making one-click reports we first need to define a report or set of reports and decide who the end consumers will be. Once we do that we can begin to build these reports as favorites. A common tendency is to create multiple versions of essentially the same report except for different eyes e.g. Project Summary by PM and Project Summary by Division Manager. This usually unnecessary duplication in that if there is a natural hierarchy in the organizational structure we can create one report that is viewed differently depending on the users role in the organization.
We can accomplish this within our look-ups by using search criteria such as:
Project Manager IsMe
This is a simplistic example however in doing this we would now have one report that serves 3 levels of the organizational hierarchy.
Creating a One-Click Report
So how do we actually create the one-click report? Well we are all probably familiar with the favorite concept which is also a one-click report, however it is still editable – meaning when I navigate to Reporting–>Project–>Some Favorite report, I can still change option settings and the selection set. This can lead to end-users getting the wrong information if they don’t know what they’re doing….or maybe they know what they’re doing but we don’t want them to see it any differently!
We can avoid this by using the Nav Tree designer to create menu links directly to our favorite reports. I will typically go a step further and create my own “Reporting Center” section within the menu and put all of my reports in there in some sort of logical groupings.
The Security Aspect
Now some of you may think, well that’s better I can just click on it and they’re all organized in one place, but what’s preventing me from going into reporting and monkeying around with it? Well honestly nothing, however my experience has been that most users when given a simple option will choose it!
So let’s go a step further, perhaps you want to restrict what your users see in the new “Reporting Center”….well guess what? It’s much easier to apply role based security to the Nav Tree than it is to reports, because instead of going to each report and determining which roles can see it, we can go to the roles and decide what each sees. By default they won’t see any new menu items, so we can open it up or lock it down on each role with a few clicks of checkboxes.
Let’s go even further….Maybe we only want our users to run the new one-click reports to ensure accurate delivery of data….well here’s a cool thing about this method, we can give all roles full access to all reports in Security, but hide the entire Reporting menu from all roles. Then we can easily add favorites to our new one-click menu and all security will be controlled through the Nav Tree!
In conclusion using the Nav Tree and a little creativity we can provide users with quick access to the same information over and over and eliminate the common reporting complaints. Some may see this method as excessively restrictive, and perhaps it hides the flexibility of Vision’s powerful reporting, however my personal experience has found most users want the information they need quickly and consistently. I’ve also found that most owners, controllers and senior management want their staff to be looking at the same numbers not deriving them on their own. This method can facilitate both and still be flexible enough to allow access to reporting if desired. It’s a win-win!
If you have questions or comments feel free to contact me!