SumTotal Advanced Reporting is a welcome improvement over Report Manager. We now have a secure, powerful, and flexible reporting tool that enables us to deliver the right information to anyone who needs it.
To achieve the maximum value Advanced Reporting offers, we want to recommend practices to help you standardize your reporting and manage it better. These methods have served our clients well, and we hope you can take advantage of our experience.
Our first and primary suggestion is an organization-wide data governance program, where good data management starts.
Your practices in using SumTotal Advanced Reporting should fall under your organization’s data governance policy. If you don’t have a data governance function, we recommend you get with your executives to start a conversation about it.
If you need information on how to get started, you can visit the Data Governance Institute or call us. We will be happy to help you get started.
In our two decades of reporting design and consulting, we have seen the sad result when organizations did not use a disciplined approach to reporting names:
- Users frustrated by scrolling through dozens of cryptic report names trying to find the one they needed.
- An analyst spending hours creating a report only to find someone had already created it but the name didn’t tell them what it contained.
- Report lists clogged by old and duplicated reports.
- Executives frustrated because they don’t have information they need to make decisions.
First, let’s discuss the governance aspect of naming conventions. We have seen too many organizations that started out with good intentions but didn’t follow through.
- Train everyone who creates reports on naming conventions and inform them when you change the standards.
- Apply the standards to every custom object.
- Create custom reports that alert administrators to report names that do not follow the rules. Follow up frequently so you don’t create a backlog.
- Reinforce standards with frequent communication.
Suggested Standards for Object Names in SumTotal Reporting
- Use plain language. A new user should be able to see a report name and understand the context.
- Use abbreviations only if they are common acronyms or easily understood in the context of the name.
- If a name allows spaces, use title case. If it does not allow spaces, use camel case (ThisIsCamelCase).
- Be specific. Avoid general terms such a “Completion Report.”
- If you create a report you will use only for a short time, identify it with a “Temporary” suffix or add an expiration date ( - Expires 31-DEC-2017). Schedule a periodic purge of obsolete reports.
- Do not use ampersands. The “&” character can cause problems when you import data into other applications.
- Use hyphens only if they are what a user would type in a search. If a user typed in “enrollments for course 3124” a report named “enrollments-course 3124” would not show up in a search. When you need to use it as a separator, put a space before and after the hyphen.
- For country and region codes, use ISO standards. The International Standard Organization maintains both 2-letter and 3-letter codes. Also, make other geographical labels meaningful.
Server Load Management
Generating a large dataset can consume resources that affect other users and vital processes. A resource-heavy process can slow down your servers to the point they affect dozens or hundreds of users.
SumTotal recommends scheduling large data extracts to avoid slowdowns, but we suggest taking this practice a step further by communicating with other users. Scheduling large data sets for the wee hours of the morning is a good idea unless every reports analyst does it at the same time. Your servers will automatically prioritize the data traffic, but the load still might exceed what they can handle.
You may want to avoid using real-time data unless it is necessary. Daily overnight ETL (Extract, Transfer, and Load) processes will make sure your data is no more than 24 hours old. The practice will avoid heavy loads during peak traffic time.
Consider the Skill Levels of Your Users
Inexperienced users may not be familiar with filters, crosstab summaries, and other advanced reporting features. Provide on-screen support as much as possible, and take the time to train users on the features you provide. We have had great success with training power users in each part of the organization to assist new users.
Create Dashboards on User News Pages
The most versatile personalization feature in SumTotal LMS is the customizable news content area on the Home page. It is a blank HTML page you can use for any purpose.
Using Jaspersoft or any robust reporting platform, you can transform your news area into a customizable learning dashboard. If you don’t have IT support to do it, you can partner with a consulting partner who has experience in developing the user home page.
- Require training for users appropriate to their roles, and retrain when roles change.
- Provide Jaspersoft training to your reports developers. Much of the training is free, and the cost of paid training is reasonable. The proper training will help your users maximize the value of your data.
- Take advantage of security inheritance instead of creating security permissions for each object. It may help to diagram your folders and reports and their security requirements.
We hope these tips help you improve your experience with SumTotal Advanced Reporting. The effort you put into managing your report in SumTotal will help you save time and reduce costs. Most important, it will help you measure and improve the impact of learning on your business.
If you would like to see how other organizations have improved business results by customizing the news area on the SumTotal Home Page, download our free e-book "How to Personalize Learning with Sumtotal News Pages"