8 Tips to Author the Reports your People Want in SumTotal Advanced Reporting

Apr 08, 2019

Users tell us over and over that reporting is the most frustrating feature in their LMS. We can understand why. Data isn’t information until it’s organized. Information isn’t useful business intelligence until you present it in a way that people understand. Most people don’t run and view reports because they want to “explore data.” They do it because they want answers. When they don’t find them right away, they become frustrated. 

SumTotal’s report author training and best practices guides give you all the information you need to create reports. What they don’t tell you is how to manage the process and relationships to provide great customer service. 

We assume that if you’re reading this, you have completed SumTotal’s online training on authoring reports in SumTotal Advanced Reporting and that you have the SumTotal Advanced Reporting Best Practices Guide handy as a reference. 

Here are eight tips we think you can use to provide better services to your report users. 

  1. Our first and most important tip is that a strong working relationship should exist between report authors and the people who use them. Get to understand their needs and how they think. Many people have not thought through their needs, and it may take a lot of listening to draw them out. Ask for feedback on the reports you provide. 
  2. Start with the end user in mind and keep it simple. Understand and visualize how they will use the information. Think of the story you want the report to tell your end user. 
  3. Make use of available training. Complete the online training on the database schema, ad hoc views, custom domains, topics, and other functions that make it easier to create, manage, and use reports. You can find the training at SumTotal Connect. When you learn something new, spend time with other report authors and administrators to share knowledge and how to apply it. 
  4. Get involved with your organization’s data governance program. Organizations of every size in today’s connected world of data streams require a comprehensive data governance policy. If you don’t have a Chief Data Officer or a similar role, a network of data stewards, and a structured system, we urge you to get started. Your CIO can help you get started, and the Data Governance Institute is an excellent source for information and training. You can also contact us if you need help in getting started. 
  5. One function of a data governance body is to create and maintain standards in reports management. Start with a well-structured taxonomy of naming rules to make it easy for people to find what they need. For more information on report names, read our 10 Tips for Managing Report Names in SumTotal Advanced Reporting. 
  6. Create a comprehensive description for every report you write. Make sure that anyone who sees the description knows exactly whats in the report and how it’s used. It’s easy to get in a hurry and skip that step, but the time you save now will cause time and frustration for yourself and for others when they can’t find what they need. 
  7. Don’t spend your time searching for data you already have. Each of the delivered domains in your instance contains a comprehensive set of information. Study the delivered domains and make sure every report author has a reference handy. 
  8. Use Topics to make your views easy for others to find. Domain names are too broad to be useful when you have dozens or hundreds of views and reports in your libraries. Develop a taxonomy of Domains and Topics and enforce your standards. 

We hope these tips help you manage your views and reports in ways that will delight your end users. Doing so can have a big impact on your organization. 

One Final Tip 

It’s embarrassing when your system administrator calls you in a panic because the reports you’re running have stopped critical updates. Read our article on Creating and Scheduling Reports in SumTotal Advanced Reporting so you can avoid becoming “famous.”  

Pixentia is a full-service technology company dedicated to helping clients solve business problems, improve the capability of their people, and achieve better results.

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