This paper discusses the latest Microsoft SQL Server technologies, which help to solve some common limitations in web application reporting while at the same time delivering top class reporting functionality to enable better use of application data.
Web-based applications are notoriously inadequate when it comes to reporting functionality, with data querying and presentation often not reflecting the richness of data input. This paper presents the exciting new querying and reporting functionality that is now available through the latest technologies and products, which are bringing first class reporting and presentation functionality into the hands of the software system user rather than the technical specialist.
Reporting limitations in web-based applications are often most apparent in two obvious kinds of problems for users trying to access information held within the system:
• limited report-filtering functionality – difficulty in narrowing down the data that will be shown on the report by specifying conditions on related data.
• limited ability to choose the data and details shown on a report. This may manifest itself as much more data than that required or, even worse, data that is required not appearing on a particular built-in report.
The cause of these limitations is generally rooted in the inability of most web applications to provide a sophisticated user interface and associated large volumes of data on a web page. This relatively basic user interface model is particularly evident when compared to those provided by a full Windows application.
A common solution in this situation is for end-users (or power users alone) to use external Windows-based software that allows them to interrogate the database directly. Whilst this can be an immensely useful solution, it can lead to other problems including, most significantly, the need to select, purchase, deploy and manage a Windows application and manage the connections from workstations directly to the application database. This kind of software deployment scenario and its requirements are in direct conflict with the “thin client” benefits of a web application and consequently, in some cases, may not even be compatible with the organisational IT infrastructure and its limits on PC configuration.
In recent years, some progress has been made towards providing flexible reporting tools that do run in a web browser. However, these products come with their own issues similar to those of Windows-based tools – starting with the same practicalities of evaluating, selecting and purchasing the right piece of software. Additionally, with the right software selected, the organisation must then embark on developing an understanding of the application database or even constructing and then maintaining an abstracted version of it in a data warehouse. All of this before users can actually do any reporting!