Report design: from interviews to implementation

OData support
Marton József Ernő
Department of Telecommunications and Media Informatics


As a business informatics student interested in business intelligence and data analytics, my goal was to improve my knowledge in data reporting and explore some of today’s reporting tools through my thesis work. I wanted to choose a real-life problem, which is both related to the human side of technology (like understanding the business environment and collecting customer expectations through interviews) and to the technological side (exploring different BI tools and prepare the solution for the given problem).

My chosen reporting task was related to the 2nd generation software of the Hungarian Scientific Publications Database (named MTMT2). The business problem that I had to solve was the lack of report templates on the MTMT2 frontend. The users of this frontend from the Budapest University of Technology and Economics (BME) side are university employees, responsible for running annual and ad-hoc statistical reports. As they do not have report designing or querying knowledge, without templates they cannot create reports. I intended to introduce the report designing life cycle model in my thesis through creating these report templates for the MTMT2.

After studying the related literature, learning about the data and the data querying possibilities of MTMT2 API, I had to choose a reporting tool that fits my task. I chose Tableau Desktop and TIBCO Jaspersoft Studio for comparison with Eclipse BIRT, as these software are among today’s most common BI tools. I created reports using them on MTMT2 data, and compared them based on multiple criteria, including reporting performance, user-friendliness, and design capabilities. I chose Eclipse BIRT Report Design tool as a best fit for my reporting purposes. This tool was able to process the downloaded datasets in XML format, and was also able to produce report templates as an output, some of which can also be embedded to the MTMT2 frontend.

The first step of the report planning and specification process was to interview two of the future users of the report templates. After understanding their expectations, I created four reports’ specification. I had to define the reports’ fields and design their underlying calculations.

The next step was the report designing process in Eclipse BIRT. I created the structure of the report templates on the downloaded XML files from the MTMT2 database. After finishing the design of the report templates, I implemented two of them in the MTMT2 frontend. The other templates cannot be implemented in the frontend due to the frontend’s current limitations, but can be used on desktop computers upon downloaded datasets.

Based on my experience with the MTMT2 frontend and its reporting and report managing options, I made recommendations for possible future improvements of the frontend to extend the reporting opportunities and support non-expert users.


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