Solving the Reporting Problem

Many projects have a problem getting reports produced. In one sense, it seems expensive to hire a LIMS, ELN or LES expert who knows the data but who comes with a rather high rate. On the other hand, getting a cheap resource who knows the reporting tool isn’t an easy solution because it’s so incredibly difficult to teach them these massive databases and how they work. Today, I will tell you the solution to this problem.

Use Two Different Resources
The solution to the problem is actually to use two entirely different resources. In fact, and don’t tell my marketing department that I told you this, but they don’t have to be consultants.  😉

Resource A
Resource A knows the database incredibly well and can do standard queries fairly easily. This person needs to be me (my apologies, but my marketing department wanted me to add that!) or some other person who is a system expert. Even if they don’t know the specific implementation or, sometimes, even the particular product brand, they will be able to figure out how to tie the data together.

And it will likely be horribly ugly.

Resource B
This is where the reporting expert comes in. This person doesn’t need to know the data but just needs to know the reporting tool and has the ability to “pretty things up.”

The Final Bit
The purpose here is that Resource A, whether a consultant or an employee, tends to be rather expensive. This person can throw together the right query to get the data but probably has little experience with the reporting tool and possibly can’t even match their own socks. But having them get the process started with the right data is the way to go.

Then, to let Resource B, the less expensive resource take over, and let that person fiddle with all the niceties like getting the corporate logo on the report, getting it aligned the right way, and such.

One More Thing
But if you think that Resource A is done, let me just say that they aren’t. Often, when Resource B starts fiddling with the report, there are more changes, sometimes because the report format requires the query to be stated differently than the way it was initially done. However, just put it in Resource A’s queue and let them hit that query for the fix when it pops to the top of their priority list and you’ll have it back in Resource B’s hands lickety-split, in many cases.

The other bit is that someone has to work with Resource B to understand what is needed in the format, even if you’ve produced a requirement document for it. It doesn’t have to be Resource A but that’s one possibility.

What’s the Point
The point is that most customers think that it’s just too expensive to use high-level consultants to get the formatting beautiful and even if you’re not using consultants, your LIMS System Administrator is too busy to mess around with all of that. The other bit is that it’s too hard to teach a reporting tool expert your database, in many cases. Many times, and especially if you just need one report, you don’t need to try. In the situation where you have many and ongoing reporting needs, you can work with the report writer to learn more as the process goes along. One day, they can probably, at the least, create the simple reports and some of the really good ones can learn to create the difficult ones with minimal assistance.

Gloria Metrick
GeoMetrick Enterprises

Pixels and You

In my last post, A Few Label Printing Tips, I mentioned moving items on barcode labels around by pixels. That sounds tedious, doesn’t it? Well, actually, it is, but it’s sometimes easier than the drag-and-drop route.

Here it is, 2017, and we’re still talking about and using pixels?! Yes, indeed.

As I mentioned in the last post, when you have little room or need things to line-up in an exact way, moving by pixels can be the easiest way to make that happen. Actually, some of the drag-and-drop tools do have functions to help you line things up but few allow the finer movements you need for the trickier adjustments.

And this is where I come to Jasper Reports as an example. Currently using the LVS system, I have started using Jasper reports. It does work in pixels (it sometimes looks like it doesn’t but using pixels is really what it’s doing). And it’s now finally possible for even me to get things to line-up (and it’s one thing I’ve never previously master). I can adjust the pixels in the interface -or- and only when you make a backup copy and know what you’re doing, you can go directly into the .JRXML file and just change the pixels right in there. That’s my preference when I’m changing quite a lot of fields to move them or to add a field that I want formatted exactly like another field is to do it in the “back end” in this manner.

And to help us all, there are plenty of tools around to convert pixels (e.g., inches to pixels and pixels to inches).

In addition, these aren’t the only applications around where pixels are useful. Some web designers talk about pixels. Some of the tools available for this use pixels.

Pixels might seem ancient but they’re not dead. They can be useful to know about and learn how to use.

Gloria Metrick
GeoMetrick Enterprises