Discussing proper report design planning is out of this book's scope; however, it is worth mentioning that a plan should be put in place before starting to create reports. The reporting plan is used to identify and analyze common report requirements in several areas, such as:
Report content Looking at the projected report catalog will give you a 10,000 foot view of the full reporting functionality that is needed. This overview will help you spot opportunities for optimization, such as consolidating two similar reports into a single report.
Formatting Consider headers, footers, versioning info, author, dates, and similar elements that should be added to every report.
Source code control Report definition files should be considered source code, and a source code control strategy is highly recommended. Additionally, because a report may produce paper or file documents that have their own life cycle, you are advised to put the report version that generates the document in a visible place on each report so you can distinguish easily which report version was used to obtain the results. Versions may have major and minor version numbers.
Data sources and security Users might request that a report show different results depending on which user actually requests the processing of the report. When planning, you must gather information about what kind of security should be applied and details about user authorization to view, process, and edit each report or batch of reports.
Report life cycle You should know certain aspects of each report's life cycle, such as how often it must be processed, how many users need the resulting information, and how long it takes to process the report. With this information, you can make the right decisions about report design.
Report delivery channels and formats Report design and previously mentioned characteristics will depend on the target delivery formats (text, RTF, PDF, Excel...) and on the delivery channel (file folder, SMTP, Web viewed, PDA viewed...). It will be to your advantage to gather these requirements and to consider them in the planning phase.