Providing reports for users of software applications can be a difficult compromise for software developers. There is no point collecting data if it cannot be reported in a useful way, yet every user has their own ideas and requirements for reporting. There is also, to some extent, a trade off between the flexibility of a system, and how easy it is to generate reports – a more flexible system can present technical challenges for report generation, and Elements is a very flexible system!
After almost 40 years of dealing with such challenges, we believe that TOPAZ Elements provides the best reporting strategy of any system in our market. This is based on a 3 tier reporting strategy, which provides 3 levels of customization and ease of use depending on the needs of a particular user. These three levels are;
- Canned reports use a fixed format and cover a set of “commonly used” standard reports (e.g. to output a report of an entire protocol content, or details of a protocol review, or numbers for your annual animal usage reporting).
- Reporting grids allow users to customize content and layout within certain limits, and report data easily to Excel or PDF. This is great for list reports covering cages, animals, billing transactions etc.
- TOPAZ Reporter is a powerful ad hoc reporting tool that allows flexible report generation with a host of advanced features.
Canned reports are requested from within the application and are generated as PDFs. Users can then print, email or save as they see fit. The data included is based on filters determined by the user, but the report content and layout is fixed.
The reporting grids can be used by any end user and provide a very simple way to generate flexible and moderately customizable, list style output. By exporting to Excel, calculations, charts and other advanced features can easily be added by Excel-proficient users. Combined with the powerful filtering capabilities in Elements, these grids are a great way to do some basic data mining, or to print out customized to-do lists, for example.
The TOPAZ Reporter module, by contrast, is best used by a handful of trained staff at an institution, as a service to their colleagues. IT staff or others who have had experience of using similar tools (Crystal Reports, MS Access etc), will be able to provide a huge variety of reports that include advanced features such as formulae, charts, drill down sub-reports, cross tabs, graphical dashboards and a huge range of formatting options. Reporter even allows you to schedule reports to be run on a regular basis and emailed out to a list of recipients automatically.
By providing these three options, each with different levels of ease of use, flexibility and reporting power, we believe that all of our Elements users should be able to get the reports they need from their Elements data. Stay tuned for more information and some exciting announcements relating to the TOPAZ Reporter module in the coming weeks!