by: Kristine Aranda
As a report writer, I am always learning more efficient ways to write code, changes in how data is entered on the front end, or new data structures introduced
by the vendor. I will outline some of the strategies I have used to ensure that my reports are as efficient as possible.
Regular Meetings with Report Writers
Holding weekly meetings with the report writers can help prevent issues and press the need to have uniformity in report creation. Discussion should center around topics that will lead to standard, precise, simplified ways to write reports. The team can share new coding techniques they have learned and implemented during the week or any relevant build changes in the front-end application. Use the time to share resolution steps for reporting errors found during the week, and reinforce policies surrounding report documentation. When all reports are written similarly or within the same guidelines, it will be easier for others to troubleshoot and decipher the code. The intention may be to keep people assigned to a particular domain, but the team needs to be flexible enough to easily fix another person’s report or take over in the case of attrition or promotion.
Communication is Key
There are so many ways to interpret simple descriptors in report requests. Making assumptions without communicating with others can lead to mistrust in the reports and the reporting team. You want to make sure that you have interpreted the request correctly and that you know exactly how to get that data. Meeting with the application builders and report requester early and often can create a better experience for everyone involved and lead to the most accurate reports. It is also important to keep the users of the reports involved so that the report is consistently used and trusted. There could be workflow changes, regulatory changes, or changes in the needs of the report that only the user knows. By keeping the lines of communication open for the users you are providing an easy way for them to document required report changes. This will send the message that they and their reporting needs are a priority to the reporting team.
Creating a Library of Readily Available Tools
Another way to minimize reporting errors and make the process of writing new reports easier is to create an enterprise-wide data dictionary. Once the decisions on business terms have been made, the reporting team can create views, custom tables, or even a data warehouse where these defined terms have already been converted into distinct columns and labeled discretely. This can reduce new development time and mistakes.
Let’s demonstrate with a simple example: the requestor wants to see ‘Age’ on the report. Depending on which dates are used in the calculation, different values could be displayed. Does the user want the Age as of today, as of the end of the reporting period selected, at the time that something was completed inside the report like Admission or Discharge date? To help with this, special columns could be created for ‘Age at Admission Date’ or ‘Age at Discharge’ with the calculations already completed; then when another requestor needs that special calculation in their report, the developer can just use the new custom field in the report instead of doing a new calculation.
Invest in Developers’ Skills
This last one might be obvious, but it’s an important reminder. Make sure your team is keeping their skills strong and sharp, as technology is ever-changing. Allocate funds towards continuing education for your developers. Encourage your team to keep their certifications current and read up on the newest versions of the software. Finally, network with others in the field to gain more insight into how you can work smarter.
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