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Automating Reports with Data Ninja 2.0

At Macedon, we know how important it is to automate business processes for efficiency, reliability, and improved reporting. So when we spotted an opportunity to streamline one of our most common development tasks (and build in more advanced features), we didn't hesitate to make this vision a reality.

Most of the business reports we create in Appian are relatively simple and straightforward. There's usually a sortable grid of data that can be filtered by a few key fields. An accompanying chart or graph is often displayed to allow the user to visualize the data. Additionally, users can export the data into an Excel document.

These "garden variety" reports involve common development activities and coding structures. So, we figured that we could turn the report creation process into more of a "what you see is what you get" (WYSIWYG) experience. Users can indicate what data they want to use for the report, which columns are visible and in which order, how to sort the data initially, and which filters and charts to include.

The result is a report creation experience that is so simple that business people can create reports just as easily as developers. Instead of report creation and modification requiring a production deployment and approval from change control authority, business people can create and update reports in Data Ninja on-demand, directly in Production, so there’s no deployment necessary and no red tape to cut through.

Providing the features present in traditional reports in a faster, more accessible way is an improvement, but with the reporting engine we created, we realized that we could go further.

  • We included support for a variety of reporting design customizations: sorting by multiple fields (users can define the order), grid page size adjustment, and data point formatting either with built-in formats or custom-built rules. Specifically, the formatting customization easily allows for: - Your dates to be formatted the way you like - Your currency can be customized to your county - Phone numbers and social security numbers formatted appropriately

  • We expanded the display options and built-in support for dynamic filter values (such as allowing running off of the current viewer of the report for privacy filtering).

  • We built-in scheduled email delivery functionality so that a spreadsheet of the report content can be email delivered to selected people at the desired time and frequency.

  • We added a permissions system that allows report creators and editors to easily update view and edit permissions on the report.

  • We allowed reports to be "data aggregations" (also known as groupings or roll-ups) so that reports can show summary calculations of data.

Additionally, we included the following in the Data Ninja 2.0 release:

  • We streamlined the data configuration so that administrators can set up Data Ninja faster

  • We added support for exporting a high volume of data to a spreadsheet

  • We added logging of data modifications to comply with audit requirements

We're very proud that we've been able to make reports in Appian more powerful and flexible while reducing development time. Several Fortune 500 companies are using Data Ninja, and we've been able to incorporate their feedback into the recent Data Ninja 2.0 release.

Want to learn more about Data Ninja? Visit the product page on the Appian App Market. If you have any questions, please contact us.

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