12 Tips for Managing Report Names in SumTotal Advanced Reporting

12 Tips for Managing Report Names in SumTotal Advanced Reporting

About 10 years ago, I started a position as a report writer and analyst for a large HR department. In my first conversation with the senior HR analyst, I told her the first thing I wanted to do was to conduct an inventory of what reports were already available. She wished me luck in finding anything useful. 

Her response puzzled me, but I soon learned what she meant. I found almost 400 reports. Few of them had names or descriptions that helped me understand what was in them. It took months to clean up the mess. 

Report names matter, and without a published and enforced set of rules, you will, in time, have chaos. The effort required to resolve the problems may make you want to junk it all and start over. 

There is an easier way.Report naming conventions should be a part of your organization’s data governance policy. Your data steward should review every report name and description for compliance. 

If your organization doesn’t have a data governance team or function, we recommend you get started on it right away. Your organization may have good governance in place by another name. Start a conversation with your CIO to learn how it works in your business. 

Data Governance 

According to the Data Governance Institute, data governance is the exercise of decision-making and authority for data-related matters.It defines who has authority to do what with data in the organization.It governs how you carry out the decisions your management team makes about your company’s information. 

What data governance means to your organization depends on the nature of your business.Although the framework for an organization may be the same as for another business or industry, the focus could be different. 

To get started, we recommend that you connect with the Data Governance Institute and download the DGI Data Governance Framework, or contact us to talk about your needs. 

Report Naming Conventions 

If your organization does not have report name conventions, we have a few tips to get you started. The standards here are based on our experience. This is our second update since we first published them in June 2016.  

NoteThis guide assumes you have completed Advanced Reporting Author Training and have read and kept a copy of the SumTotal Advanced Reporting Best Practices Guide. 

  • Create a naming taxonomy. You could use an organization taxonomy, an information type taxonomy, or both. You may choose a hybrid of, for example, organizations and functions. What matters is that you have a structure that works for you and that your users to run their own reports will understand. 
  • If you need to include department or location in a report name, you may want to use them at the beginning of the name so reports will be grouped together. 
  • Use plain language that a new employee will understand. Use abbreviations only if they are common acronyms that everyone understands. 
  • We recommend using spaces or underscore (_) between words. Camel case works fine, but it's hard to read (ThisIsCamelCase).
  • Use specific report names that give a clear idea of what is in the report. “Completion Report” is not useful. “Safety Training Completion Report” is better. 
  • Do not use ampersands (&). Spell out “and.” Ampersands can create problems in HTML. 
  • Use hyphens only if a user would type them in a search. Searching “year end” will not return a name that contains “year-end.” Instead of using hyphens for separators try colons. 
  • For country and region codes, useISO 3166 standards. The International Organization for Standards maintains both 2-letter and 3-letter codes. 
  • Identify temporary reports with a suffix and purge them when you have finished using them. 
  • Provide complete descriptions for every report. Don’t assume people will know what is in them. 
  • Decide how you will implement the guidelines. Train everyone who creates reports on the standards and give them reference guides. 
  • Follow up frequently at scheduled intervals. It might be a good idea to have your IT group or implementation partner help you design an audit report. 

Following your guidelines will help people find the information they need. It will speed up report development because report writers can use what they already have as a starting point. And when it comes time to clean up the report lists, it will be much easier than having to open each report to see what is in it.

6 Tips for Success in Using Domains and Topics in SumTotal Advanced Reporting

6 Tips for Success in Using Domains and Topics in SumTotal Advanced Reporting

Domains are the fundamental building blocks for reporting in SumTotal. 

The SumTotal Advanced Reporting User Guide describes them as a metal layer between the reports and the reporting database. That’s a techie’s way of saying that complex data is organized in a way that makes it easy for report authors to use it without having to perform the queries, joins, and calculations to extract data from the database. A domain functions the same way as a database view in Oracle or SAP ABAP. 

SumTotal provides domains that enable you to satisfy most of your reporting needs. Each delivered domain can be used for multiple purposes. 

You will probably find some business use cases where a delivered domain will not contain the data you need. Custom domains allow you to create data sets to satisfy information needs not covered by the delivered domains. 

Topics 

A topic in SumTotal is, in effect, a view of data in a domain. It contains data you choose from a domain, using filters to control what data it displays. 

In general, the topic is best used for specific business use cases, where you only need some data fields in a domain. You can allow user input and allow users to select which data they want to see. 

Comparing Domains and Topics 

This comparison may help you to choose whether you want to base your reports on a topic or a domain. These are generalizations based on our experience. Your uses and structure may differ from ours. 

 

Domain 

Topic 

Audience 

Power users who understand the data structure and Structured Query Language. 

Business users who want to explore their own data and create reports for themselves or their business units. 

Purposes 

Reports and dashboards for end users using the Ad Hoc Editor or Jaspersoft Studio. 

Create topics for business users who create reports. 

Reports and dashboards for end users using the Ad Hoc Editor and Advanced Reporting. 

Use Cases 

Multiple use cases in broad subject areas and functions. 

Single use case or a narrow scope of use cases. 

Functions 

Data aggregation, joins, calculations, and data manipulations that would slow down or prevent report processing. 

Multiple filtering, custom column headers, user input functions, and user data selection tools that do not require programming skills. 

Tips for Success 

The free training that SumTotal provides would get you started on the road to successful reporting that we would offer some additional tips that will make the road a bit smoother. 

  • Don’t skimp on training. Make sure every person has the required training for their role in reporting. Require and provide ongoing training as much as possible so they continue to learn and grow in their roles. 
  • Make sure everyone with a role in reporting has the latest SumTotal Advanced Reporting User Guide. It is always available at SumTotal Connect. 
  • Send your report analysts and authors to SumTotal conferences where reporting and analytics will be discussed. 
  • Design reports for the skill level of end-users. Some users will want reports that give them exactly what they want. Others will want to do their own exploration. 
  • Get involved in your organization’s data governance. If you don’t have a data governance function, get the conversation started. Your CIO may be waiting for someone like you to show interest. 
  • You can get yourself up to speed on data governance with the free training and resources at the Data Governance Institute

8 Tips to Author the Reports your People Want in SumTotal Advanced Reporting

8 Tips to Author the Reports your People Want in SumTotal Advanced Reporting

Users tell us over and over that reporting is the most frustrating feature in their LMS. We can understand why. Data isn’t information until it’s organized. Information isn’t useful business intelligence until you present it in a way that people understand. Most people don’t run and view reports because they want to “explore data.” They do it because they want answers. When they don’t find them right away, they become frustrated. 

SumTotal’s report author training and best practices guides give you all the information you need to create reports. What they don’t tell you is how to manage the process and relationships to provide great customer service. 

We assume that if you’re reading this, you have completed SumTotal’s online training on authoring reports in SumTotal Advanced Reporting and that you have the SumTotal Advanced Reporting Best Practices Guide handy as a reference. 

Here are eight tips we think you can use to provide better services to your report users. 

  1. Our first and most important tip is that a strong working relationship should exist between report authors and the people who use them. Get to understand their needs and how they think. Many people have not thought through their needs, and it may take a lot of listening to draw them out. Ask for feedback on the reports you provide. 
  2. Start with the end user in mind and keep it simple. Understand and visualize how they will use the information. Think of the story you want the report to tell your end user. 
  3. Make use of available training. Complete the online training on the database schema, ad hoc views, custom domains, topics, and other functions that make it easier to create, manage, and use reports. You can find the training at SumTotal Connect. When you learn something new, spend time with other report authors and administrators to share knowledge and how to apply it. 
  4. Get involved with your organization’s data governance program. Organizations of every size in today’s connected world of data streams require a comprehensive data governance policy. If you don’t have a Chief Data Officer or a similar role, a network of data stewards, and a structured system, we urge you to get started. Your CIO can help you get started, and the Data Governance Institute is an excellent source for information and training. You can also contact us if you need help in getting started. 
  5. One function of a data governance body is to create and maintain standards in reports management. Start with a well-structured taxonomy of naming rules to make it easy for people to find what they need. For more information on report names, read our 10 Tips for Managing Report Names in SumTotal Advanced Reporting. 
  6. Create a comprehensive description for every report you write. Make sure that anyone who sees the description knows exactly what’s in the report and how it’s used. It’s easy to get in a hurry and skip that step, but the time you save now will cause time and frustration for yourself and for others when they can’t find what they need. 
  7. Don’t spend your time searching for data you already have. Each of the delivered domains in your instance contains a comprehensive set of information. Study the delivered domains and make sure every report author has a reference handy. 
  8. Use Topics to make your views easy for others to find. Domain names are too broad to be useful when you have dozens or hundreds of views and reports in your libraries. Develop a taxonomy of Domains and Topics and enforce your standards. 

 

We hope these tips help you manage your views and reports in ways that will delight your end users. Doing so can have a big impact on your organization. 

One Final Tip 

It’s embarrassing when your system administrator calls you in a panic because the reports you’re running have stopped critical updates. Read our article on Creating and Scheduling Reports in SumTotal Advanced Reporting so you can avoid becoming “famous.”