Simplifying Digital Reporting Tools in WMG, Warwick Uni

As we’re speccing and delivering more digital systems at WMG, Warwick University, we’re beginning to re-evaluate how we handle reporting from each and every system. It’s becoming clear that every online application or process seems to implement a different set of reporting tools by default.

Currently we have 2 which output custom .csv’s (comma separated values), another system that you only get reports out if the developer is available and we have 3 more systems planned for release in the Summer all with reporting requirements.

Clearly we’re need to start offering a more unified interface for our users, so we can,

  • reduce the strain on developer time per. system (a premium)
  • simplify the learning requirements per. system per. staff member
  • improve product delivery time

As a potential solution I’ve been looking into clever add-ons from elastic.co, which as a dev is my favourite. However, that would be a new system for admin staff to have to learn. Also, we can’t implement it on all the systems, just a few of them.

Another potential system might be Microsoft performance point, however, no-one here knows that system. Also, we’re unsure of which technology stacks it will hook into.

However, we’ve discovered a more generic solution that would build on our staff’s Microsoft Office skills rather than learning technologies and it can access any technology stack.

It appears that Microsoft has an add-on called “Power Query” which connects directly to Azure, SQL and Mysql databases. With a read-only database account for staff and administrators, they would connect directly to the database and with some guidance access and work on real live data. If we were to organise a shared OneDrive folder with the queries and charts in, then we would reduce the team’s adoption.

This way, I won’t need request time to build custom reports on every project, unify our reporting technology to one piece of software and reduce the cost of licensing to our current Office 365 licence.

We’re at the stage where we are going to trial Power Query and I’ll report back on our findings.

Author: Dan Course

Dan Course, E-Learning Development at Warwick University (WMG). Agile Scrum trained and full-stack development. Interested in E-learning, Democracy, Politics and Tech. All thoughts are mine and not of my employer.

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