How Do You Collect Requirements for a Reporting System?

Reader question:

“How do people go about collecting report requirements from clients and trying their best to reduce overheads whilst still fulfilling the data needs? I know there has been a big drive recently for Green IT and how companies can reduce their carbon footprint, is this a tactic that should be used?

In addition, how are the report lists maintained and captured – do people have a report book template they can provide. I suppose the best way forward is to persuade clients to consolidate and condense their reports, which will reduce complexity.”

Aaron’s reply:

Remember that the Business Analyst (BA) gathers and documents requirements then makes recommendations.  The Stakeholder, or client, is the decision maker.  So “Green IT…is this a tactic that should be used?” That is for the client to decide, based on their business needs.

You ask a multitude of questions within your question, you asked about reduce overhead cost, fulfilling data needs, Green IT, carbon footprint and report lists. You are asking the right questions and considering more than just report contents.  Every good BA will consider all the necessary components and gather requirements from the stakeholders about all the components, not just the contents of the report.

Report Contents

The data fields contained in the report and how it is formatted is where the stakeholders will want to spend their time.  They usually have a good idea of how they want the report to look.  However, stakeholders may not be aware of technology capabilities that can highlight certain data on the report by changing color, bold, or changing the font or size of the text.  The BA should be aware of these capabilities and elicit the requirements around highlighting certain data on the report.

Report Format

Along with content of the information contained in the report, in what format should it be delivered?  Paper reports are no longer the only option.  Some recipients may wish to reformat or resort the data once the report is delivered; Excel spreadsheet makes a good format for these recipients.  When this is not necessary, yet you wish to go Green, PDF format may be a good option.

Underlying Infrastructure

Consider the infrastructure in place when making recommendations on changing the reporting system of the organization.  Making a recommendation that completely changes the infrastructure, or that the current infrastructure can not support usually will meet with great opposition.  Is the client running a Windows or Linux network, IBM midrange or mainframe system?

Report Delivery System

The days of the large data center with 10 printers that look like washing machines that print reports all day and then someone walks throughout the office delivering paper reports are coming to an end.  You may be able to find this still today in very large organizations, but just like the floppy disc, this too will some day be a thing of the past.

Organizations that wish to reduce their paper usage can consider having reports delivered to shared folders on the company’s network or through the company’s email system.  Both PDF and Excel reports can be delivered either way.

You can further reduce costs by having the application that creates the report deliver it to its final destination in the format desired.  Most systems have tools built within them that assist in accomplishing this task.  There is usually third-party software available that can do this when the system lacks the tools itself to get the job done.

Security

Some reports may have sensitive or proprietary information, such as financial or executive reports, that you will want to limit the access to these reports.  Reports delivered via the company’s email system are delivered to individuals or distribution lists; so you control who gets these reports.  The downside of this method is that if the report was delivered to 10 recipients you now have 10 copies of a sensitive report out there.

Windows network folders can have limited access rights assigned to them.  So setting up folders and assigning limited access rights to them then having reports delivered directly to those folders solves many issues related to delivering reports for the organization.

Report List

Organizations have spent a lot of money trying to maintain report lists.  Keeping it current with additions, removals and delivery instruction changes can be a daunting task.  Sometimes when an application is used to deliver reports, necessary information can be extracted from the setup to create a report list.  If the reports are delivered to Windows network folders, open the folder…there is your list.  Reducing the resources necessary to maintain the report list is another way to save your client money.  So capture it from an application setup or from the network folders to automatically create the list.  Also, if a list is not required, don’t spend the resources to maintain one.

So when working on an enterprise reporting system, remember there is more to consider than how the report looks.

>> Learn What Questions to Ask When Creating a New Report

“Create Report” is one of the 18 requirements checklists in the  Requirements Discovery Checklist Pack, which includes over 700 questions, categorized and cross-referenced so you can prepare for your next elicitation session with a sense of ease and confidence. I

Click here to learn more about the Requirements Discovery Checklist Pack

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