Technical reporting with YOXEL SW: HTML, PDF, EXCEL

July 18, 2007

When it comes to planning or tracking certain activity and communicating its status to involved stakeholders, reporting capabilities of your planning/tracking tools become quite important.

A few examples where I personally benefit from a nicely formatted, printed (or printable) report. Something you can hand out or send to people:

  • A daily/weekly meeting with developers where we discuss current most critical (some call them P0/P1) requests. Especially when you have more than one critical request per developer, it is time to sit down all together with a paper report and decide on tactical priorities.
  • Release/iteration planning sessions, where you communicate with your colleagues directly. It is very convenient for everyone to have a list of the tasks being planned/implemented in the current iteration. Sure, you could be starting with story cards and a white board but reports is an automated alternative when you are using a tracking tool of some sort.
  • How about communicating status of important requests to your customers? That is my favorite application of reports :). If your customers do not have a direct access into your tracking database (btw, Yoxel SW has this capability too) you probably want to send them regularly a report which lists their current support requests, open bugs/enhancement requests, closed ones too. This is a very good way of keeping your customers informed, showing them your progress, and at the same time having constant feedback on content and priorities from them. Guess what, this technical information coming from your bug-tracker is not available in salesforce.com’s database for your sales people but they would love to have a copy of this report before meeting a customer face-to-face.
  • Getting a little bit into sales side but still staying technical: pre-sales evaluations tracking. Stuff that pre-sales engineers know about a customer engagement. There are not too many systems actually doing this tracking and such reports are mostly generated manually. These are very important and again contain the technical information your sales guys want to have at their fingertips. For the pre-sales engineers these reports allow to communicate their load to the management and likelihood of a deal moving forward to their sales people.
  • I am sure you can think of many more types of reports and their benefits

So you can see that your current bug-tracker or a project management tool contains alot of useful technical information that could be important to anyone, starting from developers to managers, sales, and even your customers. And I am only talking about the technical information: bugs, product requests, support requests, their statuses, user comments, priorities, commit dates … Forget about marketing and sales folks for now that have other stuff to report from their salesforce.com’s, siebel’s, and sugarcrm’s.

Once Yoxel SW essentially is a request tracker combined with a release/project manager it was quite natural for us to try to address these reporting challenges – to create a convenient and flexible enough way of defining and creating reports based on the information about the requests in our database.

  1. It all starts with filters. Folks familiar with Jira know what I am talking about. As a user of Yoxel SW you create filters to zoom in on certain sub-sets of requests in your database. Internally a filter translates into an SQL SELECT query. Guess what, you can save and share filters in Yoxel.
  2. The next step we have done is we have allowed you to create a report definition. We call it a report template, it defines a structure of a report. Yoxel report can consist of multiple sections: headers and contents. The header is just a line of text, usually preceding a content section. The content section is a filter (one of those that you’ve saved) and ‘order by’ parameter. The template also defines which fields (columns) you want to show in the report. (BTW, Yoxel allows any number of custom fields to be added.) You can save and share the templates too.
  3. Now, to actually create a report you select a template, apply additional content control filtering and choose which format you want HTML/PDF/EXCEL. Content control allows you to generate a report where certain information is hidden, which is usually helpful when creating a report for a customer (hide purely internal requests and details, or hide requests related to other customers). Excel format allows you to add final touches to the report content in your MS Excel before sharing it with others.

You can see that the templates make it quite convenient. For example pre-sales engineers and a support team can work out a certain standard report structure to communicate with the customers (current open requests sorted by priority, enhancement requests, cosed items); a product manager could create another template for tracking release progress (requests assigned to the iteration; show fields relevant to progress tracking); a PM or an R&D manager might want to create a template for showing only critical requests. Creation of an up-to-date report based on a template becomes a matter of a mouse click for any member of your team.

Give it a try in our demo account at www.yoxel.com and tell me what you think. Follow the menu ‘SOFTWARE/requests/reports’ once logged in.

Enjoy!

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