In the age of big data, a good reports catalog can provide tangible and intangible benefits to any organization.  A catalog of reports can be very useful in helping to manage what could be a very unwieldy part of your business intelligence environment.  In this blog, we’ll discuss the positives of having a catalog to manage business intelligence (BI) activity and explore an approach to building and maintaining one.

For companies that want to understand their reporting environment, here are some questions to consider

  • Who’s reporting on what?
  • What information is being tracked?
  • What happens when changes occur?
  • Is standardization being driven across the enterprise?

Listed below are some of the major benefits, from both a user and an IT perspective, that are can be realized with having a complete, robust, and accurate report catalog.

  • Users are able to search existing reports available for use.
    • This can reduce duplicate reports and increase ROI on report development as additional users discover and make use of them.
  • Developers can capture metadata about the report:
    • Report Owner – This can help with control and standardization if a single report owner is identified who has approval rights on any changes requested to one of ‘their’ reports.
    • Reporting Tool – This can be useful in identifying what reports are affected when a given reporting tool is updated or deemed obsolete.
    • Report Developer – Obviously useful for being able to answer questions users might have as to what the report is actually doing and can allow for more efficient maintenance of the report since the person who developed it is probably most familiar with it and can more quickly incorporate any requested changes.
    • Report Location – Where the report is accessed within your system.
    • Report Description – A good description of the report is key to helping users (and developers for that matter) understand what data a given report is returning and how it is intended to be used.  Having a good report description can reduce the number of questions from users and allows them to be more self-sufficient in finding what they need.
    • Report Status – the current state of the report (ex. requested, requirements defined, in development, in production, or obsolete)

Of course, the key to any sort of catalog like this is the accuracy and maintenance of the data within it.  Where some of the catalog data associated with a report will remain fairly fixed, other point can fluctuate regularly.  A few different approaches can be used to help this:

  • Require users to complete certain aspects of the catalog before development can begin.
  • When a report is released to production, the developer completes/updates the catalog.
  • Require an IT ‘peer-review’ be done before releasing the report to production. This can be used to help ensure consistency of form and completeness of the catalog data.
  • Require updates to the catalog as part of the ‘Report Change Control’ process.
  • Develop automated processes that check catalog data against actual report data. Examples of this could be to check that the report name in the catalog matches the actual report name, or that the report status in the catalog matches the actual status of the report.
  • Perform periodic random sample audits of the catalog versus the actual reports. Again, a template could be developed similar to the ‘Peer Review’ template to drive the audit activity.

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