It happens all too often. A CLO tells a new analyst she needs a custom report on training costs for the past three years. The analyst knows it was done before, so he goes to SumTotal Advanced Reporting and searches for the previous report using keywords.
He finds a few that look promising, but when he opens them, they are nothing close to what the CLO wants. There are hundreds of reports with names so cryptic he can’t deduce what is in them.
After 30 minutes of searching, he gives up and designs a new report. He takes the new report to the CLO, whose first comment is that it doesn’t look like the report she got last time. The analyst asks for a copy of the old report, and when he gets it, he sees a title in plain English, but nothing that shows the name. He surrenders and reformats the new report to look like the old one.
We hope that story doesn’t sound familiar to you. It is a true story, modified for today's discussion.
Report names matter, and without a published and enforced set of rules, you will, in time, have chaos. And the effort to resolve the problems may make you want to junk it all and start over.
There is an easier way. Your organization should have report naming conventions as part of its data governance policy. 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 all the procedures in place, but may not have named them governance. Start with your CIO to learn how it works in your business.
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 management makes about your company’s information.
What data governance means to your organization depends on the nature of your business. If compliance is your primary concern, it will focus on that. Need for consumer behavior information will have another.
To get started, we recommend 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 can give you a few tips to get you started. We have updated the standards since we first published them in June.
- Create a naming taxonomy. Decide whether you will use an organization taxonomy, an information type taxonomy, or both. Or, you may find something different better for your purposes.
- If you need to include department or location in a report name, use them at the beginning of the name so reports will be grouped together.
- Use plain language. Use abbreviations only if they are common acronyms.
- Decide whether you will use spaces in names or underscores between words. Camel case works fine, but it's hard to read (ThisIsCameCase).
- Use specific report names that give a searcher 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.”
- 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, use ISO standards. The International Standard Organization 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, verbose descriptions for every report. Don’t assume people will know what is in them.
Decide how you will implement the guidelines. Train everyone on the standards and provide reference guides for individuals who create reports.
Follow up frequently. 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 users will see what they already have as a starting point. And, when it comes time to clean up the reports lists, it will be much easier than having to open each report to see what is in it.
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