Enterprise Reporting: The New Reporting Paradigm

Information only becomes a strategic business asset when it is readily available to decision-makers across all levels of the enterprise. Business-critical information must be put to work by getting it into the hands of those who need it, when they need it. Online Analytical Processing (OLAP) provides complex, specialized tools for detailed data analysis, but only a small set of users (usually sophisticated data analysts) have the knowledge level and time to realize the benefits of OLAP.

Enterprise Reporting systems are designed to broadly distribute valuable business information to all members of the extended enterprise, including employees, customers, suppliers and other partners, in a form that is readily accessible to all. Enterprise Reporting takes advantage of many of today’s most powerful technologies, including push, the Internet, and object-oriented software, to deliver cost-effective, universal communications that offer broad audiences secure and efficient access to the information they need. It is the infrastructure for the publishing and distribution of corporate data, and it is a key to strategic competitive advantage.

Enterprise Reporting can supply large numbers of users with access to mission-critical information and business intelligence gathered from any enterprise data source. At its most basic level, an Enterprise Reporting system must be flexible and easy to use, scalable to thousands of users and adaptable to existing legacy systems and applications. The system must be able to collect data from many sources - including data warehouses, data marts and enterprise application - and distribute data in a report format via the Internet as well as client-server systems. It is essential that Enterprise Reporting systems offer a simplified view of normally diverse and complicated information, so that end users can turn on the system and begin working with no additional training. Recipients should be able to subscribe to user channels that automatically push relevant information to their desktops - reports must be viewable remotely through standard Web browsers.

Recognizing that the Web is now one of the most widely-used and valuable tools for gathering and disseminating information, additional components that support greater interactivity, such as the hyperlinking of report information, integration with related applications and sophisticated search capabilities, are crucial to successful Enterprise Reporting. Enterprise Reporting tools need to adapt to new work environments as users continually seek new ways to quickly gather and share information from a wide array of sources.

The goal of Enterprise Reporting is to leverage institutional knowledge via reporting to users across the extended enterprise. The growing need for Enterprise Reporting is traceable to the disjointed and weak reporting foundations currently in existence at many global organizations. This comes as a result of having multiple data sources, such as data warehouses, data marts and enterprise applications, that have traditionally been accessed by homegrown reporting tools on an application-by application basis across various departments. Acceptance of Enterprise Reporting systems has been accelerated by the cultural and technological acceptance of the Web as a low-cost mechanism for enterprise communications, as well as by the growth of other enterprise knowledge systems, such as Enterprise Resource Planning and Customer Interaction Software.

At the heart of the Enterprise Reporting system is the report server – a central site within a multi-tier architecture that is responsible for all data extraction, report production, storage, security, administration and report distribution. The report server houses a shared central repository – a key facility for protecting development objects, the report executables that are created from the objects and the reports created from the executables. Because of its manifold duties, this repository must be scalable to thousands of objects.

Organizations are searching for a secure and malleable information infrastructure that allows users to easily retrieve and share the information they need to be more productive and effective workers. An Enterprise Reporting system, and the infrastructure it creates, responds to this need by accessing data from any source, distributing information no matter where the user resides and presenting complex information in a simplified form so that it is useful to its specific audience. Enterprise Reporting gives executive decision-makers a safe and secure foundation to disseminate business information throughout the extended enterprise.



Nico Nierenberg is CEO and President of Actuate Software Corporation, a provider of enterprise reporting solutions that enable organizations to extract and disseminate information across distributed environments. Additional information can be found at www.actuate.com.

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