Reporting

There is a wealth of data available to you (depending on your permissions) in Banner.  Generating reports – getting the information out in a meaningful format – can be both a time consuming as well as rewarding endeavor.  There are a number of reporting tools available to you.

Banner is a large and complex database system. All data entered into Banner resides in database tables. Approximately 4,000 tables contain Banner data, with millions of records of information. As you can imagine, pulling information from a system this large can be intimidating and difficult. For example, creating a list of all current students with their names and addresses typically involves getting information from at least three Banner tables; SPRIDEN, SPRADDR and SGBSTDN. This would also involve using several technical items to make sure we have: a) the most current term information b) the most accurate address information and c) the most accurate ID and name information.

INB Reporting Tools:  Comparisons

Reporting Tool

Microsoft Access

Tool Description

A database creation and reporting tool for the Windows platform.

Strengths

Available on UMW Windows computers
Mainstream product with many support avenues available
Fully functional relational database with lots of built in functions and wizards
Can be used to create very attractive and functional forms and reports
With some work by a report developer, report viewers and modifiers should have no trouble using this product in a very short period of time
Report developers with relational database experience will have no trouble learning how to use this tool.

Weaknesses

Can be quirky at times
Stability/performance when using ODBC to communicate with remote databases is questionable
No built in “drill down” functionality in queries/reports

Audience

Currently:  The Advancement / Development Offices

Target Users

Individuals with Report development will be able to use this tool for creating reports/databases from scratch. Provided the developer has made the database or report user friendly enough, all users should be able to “use” the report or database with minimal training.

Training

Training is available through the DoIT training unit.

Support Available

Support is available from the DoIT Training Unit and through the Help Desk, however users are responsible for building their own stand-alone database.

Costs

No cost for software that is part of the UMW standard package for Windows. UMW training is available at no cost to the user.

Reporting Tool

Microsoft Excel

Tool Description

A database, spreadsheet and reporting tool for Windows and Macintosh platforms.

Strengths

Available on UMW Windows computers and Macintoshes
Easy to arrange data in a simple spreadsheet design, as well as sort, subtotal, and create pivot tables to analyze data
Easy to export to other MS Office products
Can be used to create charts and graphs using a GUI wizard

Weaknesses

Limited amount of data can be stored in a user-friendly way
Good for reporting simple lists that need to be sorted or counted, but not at designing fancy presentations and formatted reports
Microsoft Query can sometimes be cumbersome to use
ODBC functionality is inconsistent
ODBC reporting creates a “load” on the servers.

Audience

Widely used for financial reporting and analysis. Many departments keep stand-alone spreadsheets in Excel.

Target Users

Departments and individuals who want to analyze data locally.

Training

UMW classes.

Support Available

Support is available from the DoIT Training Unit and through the Help Desk, however users are responsible for building their own stand-alone database.

Costs

No cost for software that is part of the UMW standard package for Windows and Macintosh.

Reporting Tool

Oracle Discoverer

Tool Description

An ad-hoc query and analysis tool.

Strengths

Very easy to learn
Reports can be generated directly from the tool with little to no formatting
Has a direct link to MS Excel that can be used for in depth analysis of data
Summary redirection makes reports run very quickly
Detects fantraps
Can create folders that match the business needs of specific areas in a department and control security to each folder or report separately
Importing and exporting of SQL
Can generate query statistics to see what fields users are using and which they are not
Ability to drill up and down through the data to achieve more or less detail
Ability to create hierarchies and relationships within the data.

Weaknesses

Maintenance requires a department to have a fairly technical support person to manage the “intermediate” data mart.

Does not do sophisticated formatting as Oracle Reports does.

Audience

Registrar’s Office

Target Users

Report viewers, report modifiers, and report developers. Most PC and Macintosh users would have no problem using this tool as it is similar to many Microsoft applications. This tool also has a viewer version that would allow low end users to only run saved reports.

Training

Oracle education classes for those administering the product. An in-house training session or tutorial by an end user or administrator would be enough to train the typical report viewer or report modifier.

Support Available

Costs

Reporting Tool

Oracle Reports

Tool Description

This product includes eight Components: Project Builder, Form Builder, Report Builder, Graphics builder, Query Builder, Schema Builder, Procedure Builder, and Translation Builder. Composed of Object Navigator, Layout Model, Property Palette and PL/SQL Editor. Can also be used with Oracle Forms to create attractive front ends for report viewers. Talks directly to the Oracle database via SQL net.

Strengths

Can build Web reports based on data dynamically served from the database
End users can request information simply by clicking a link on a Web page
Flexibility in formatting data
Supports multiple report types such as tables, matrices, group reports, and graphs, as well as combinations of these formats
Can build both simple and extremely complex reports
User-friendly, especially to report writers who are already familiar with Oracle tools
Has the familiar graphical user interface used by other Oracle Products such as Forms (used with Banner) and Discoverer
For simple reports written against the Datamart, end-users need only point and click, yet it is powerful enough to take advantage of the most complex PL/SQL logic against multiple tables.

Weaknesses

Has many features such as report wizards, templates, data models, and layout models that have been created to make report-writing easy. However, these features only help to write the more simple reports.
To create the more complex reports, (where Oracle Reports really has great power), the report developer should have a good working knowledge of SQLPlus and PL/SQL. (trigger, procedure, function and package, etc.)
It would make little sense to use a powerful tool like Oracle Reports solely for the development of simple reports. Without significant knowledge about Oracle databases, a report developer would not be able to take the advantage of this powerful tool

Audience

Database Systems is beginning to use Oracle Reports to replace some of the more complex FOCUS reports. The Resources Office is also beginning to use this tool.

Target Users

This tool has been designed for the report developer, although report modifiers could use some of the wizards to make modifications to existing reports. This tool can also be used and executed through Oracle’s WebDB product.

Training

On site instructor-led training class offered by Oracle Corporation. (4 days) or on-line technology-based training class also offered by Oracle Corporation.

Support Available

Database Systems as well as other report developers.

Costs

Reporting Tool

SQL*Plus

Tool Description

A character based reporting tool which is the standard “Structured Query Language” plus proprietary functionality that has been added by Oracle Corporation.

Strengths

Is the underlying programming structure used by many software packages? With the exception of formatting commands, it is therefore very portable
Can do fairly complicated computations
Can often be used in combination with other reporting tools

Weaknesses

Difficult to learn (requires programming logic)
Reports can be difficult to format, and formatting commands can only be ported to servers running SOL*Plus
Not capable of encompassing very sophisticated logic

Audience

IS/Database Systems, Resources, Admissions, Registrar’s Office

Target Users

Technical support staff, Report developers

Training

Courses are offered through Pinnacle and Oracle Corporation that cover SQL and SQL*Plus.

Support Available

Database Systems

Costs

SQL*Plus licenses come as part off our campus enterprise license with Oracle at no additional cost to our end users.

Reporting Tool

SPSS

Tool Description

A statistical package that has gone through many versions, runs on Windows, Unix, and (recently) Macintosh. It has recently acquired a more commercial (as opposed to academic) orientation. Besides reporting it can do extensive data manipulation, a wide variety of statistical procedures, and powerful output procedures both tabular and graphing.

Strengths

Extensive collection of procedures
Nice GUI interface
Can be used interactively with direct editing of data, and with dropdown menus which access most of its features
Can be used with syntax files (programs) so complete procedures can be documented and rerun
Syntax files can be run live or in a production mode (in the background)
Has a very flexible and powerful Tables procedure for report writing which allows complex data summaries to output in a very compact form
Output is in pivot tables that are attractive and can be edited extensively. The output looks very good.
Has an ODBC option. (We have no experience with setting this up.)
Available on campus as key served stand-alone software.
Has powerful features such as a recode command which can be used instead of a complex set of nested if statements
All output procedures recognize missing values and have options for handling them

Weaknesses

Front end to the report procedures takes time to learn and requires understanding of data organization
Output is in its own format (can be imported as images into Word, the output is easily read using SPSS, and a viewer is available [though not at Wellesley] to make the output generally available)

Audience

SPSS is used in several academic social science departments and is known by many social science faculty and students. It is also used by various research groups, it is not especially known by the administrative user community. Departments using SPSS include the Office for Institutional Research (OIR), Psychology, Sociology, Anthropology, Political Science and Economics as well as researchers at the Centers for Research on Women.

Target Users

Staff who already use or are familiar with other statistical packages. SPSS is used for reporting which requires data manipulation (preferably from a single database).

Training

Most people learn SPSS from someone else. Like any software, the only way to learn it is to use it. If the report writer already knows a statistical package, a day or so is all that is needed to be able to use SPSS. If one does not know a statistical package or programming concepts (like “if statements” or “do computes” ) then learning the software takes longer.

Support Available

Costs

 Licensed by UMW.