Tips and tricks for Online Reporting – Drill down to supporting info

Did you know that you can add a link to your online reports to facilitate drilling down to supporting / explanatory data?

For example, let’s assume you provide your users with an online management report for actual v. budgeted financial results. You might want to also provide your users with the ability to drill down from the report to display the underlying assumptions and calculations on which the budget has been based.

This drill-down functionality can be achieved by embedding a URL in your report, pointing to the supporting / explanatory information.

Example 1 – link to pdf:

The report could show a link to drill down to supporting information in pdf format e.g.

Preferably, supporting information should be provided in a format which can be viewed in safety using any type of device, e.g. a mobile phone or iPad.

Typically supporting information will have been prepared in a spreadsheeet, however there are some disadvantages in providing links to Excel Spreadsheet formats. Generally speaking, pdf is the preferred format for viewing data which is compiled in spreadsheet. Pdf is also ideal for providing hyperlinks to scanned documents, photos, etc. If you wish you can publish scanned documents and photos in jpg or png formats however the disadvantage is that your users will receive warnings that such files may have risks associated with them (viruses etc.). Provided your network is secure against malware then the risks are negligable, however the fact that the device will give a warning may make your users nervous about opening the links, therefore undermining the objective of providing simple drilldown functionality.

Here are some examples of some pdf document formats and types of documents which could be included in your management reports, as drill downs to supporting data and

Incidentally, I am only providing the actual url code for explanatory purposes. You don’t need to display the actual url; this information can be embedded with a “click here” or other simple indication that drill down data is available to support your report.

Example 2 – link to Excel:

If you are confident that the person viewing the information will be using a device that has access to a compatible version of Excel, and that they will not be deterred by warnings associated with opening links to Excel files, then you could provide a link to drill down to a spreadsheet e.g.

Where do you store the supporting data?

The supporting pdfs, spreadsheets or other documents that support your Management Reports can be stored and viewed from any location that can be referred to by a URL. Usually that will be an intranet location that provides secure access within your organisation. Sharepoint would also provide an ideal storage and linking method, since all you need to do is store the documents on your server and then publish the url within your report.

Summing up:

Providing links to supporting information is an excellent way to provide your users simple and elegent management reports, and also to satisfy users who want to be able to drill-down for access to additional levels of detail.

It’s really very simple to provide the drill down functionality described in this article. If you would like me to explain it in plain English… please give me a call on (03) 9320 0000 or (07) 3876 1200.