Expert Tips for Better Report Building
Reports are one of the most useful tools in any collections professional‘s toolkit, helping to do everything from creating exhibition checklists for conservation, to keeping outgoing loans organized. To create the best reports possible, Gallery Systems utilizes Crystal Reports for TMS. Sometimes managing reports can feel a little daunting, but with some training, you can become a Crystal expert.
We met with Dimitry Vesensky, Gallery Systems Client Care team member and Crystal Report writing pro, to get crystal clear on Crystal Reports for TMS. Before joining Gallery Systems in 1999, Dimitry worked in collections at The Met, and drew from his first-hand knowledge of the subject to build Crystal Report training with Gallery Systems.
1. Start with the Basics
Dimitry starts by explaining, “In any report, you need to know ahead of time what you want, and where you want it. This will shape the way your report is developed.” Dimitry says that once you decide what module or modules to include in your report, you’ll need to select a Primary Table or View for the module, and place the main table’s Primary Key into the report. Each module has a Primary Table or View, which you can find on the data map provided by Gallery Systems. This is how SQL statements are transmitted from the Crystal Report to a set of TMS search results, which allows you to run a report on a specific selection of data.
2. Create a System
When you build systems into your Crystal Reports process, it can save you time and energy.
Dimitry tells us, “I like to keep report templates, so when I need to develop or create a report, I have a starting point where my main table and Primary Key are selected.”
A screenshot showing the hierarchy system in one of Dimitry’s reports. Here, exhibitions is above objects.
In another example, using a hierarchy system in your reports will help save you time. Create a skeletal outline of the data for your report, and continue to build it slowly, especially if your report is complex and involves formatting many tables. Dimitry explains the importance of hierarchy, “Understanding hierarchy of data is fundamental for your report writing. For example, do you want to build a report that will show Objects by Exhibition or Exhibition by Objects? This will dictate the order of tables, grouping, and other aspects of your report.”
3. Go Slow
When building reports, add your tables one by one, instead of all at once. When you’re creating a large and complex Crystal Report, it can be easy for your tables to become messy. Dimitry explains that cleaning up the mess can get a little tricky, “If something goes wrong, and you didn’t realize it when it happened, it can be hard to figure out where the problem is in your data tables.” If you add tables and test your report after each addition, it’s easy to spot a problem right away, for example, if there’s an omission of data.
4. Use Views
When it comes to the debate of Tables vs. Views: “We encourage Views as much as possible.” Dimitry elaborates, “Views have many benefits. For example, if you mainly use tables in your report, and your underground data structure changes, your report can fail after an upgrade. You then have to readjust your report. Views help to avoid this pitfall, and they can be adjusted much easier to present data the same way even if the data structure of the tables has changed.” Views can also be designed to select a subset of data, that will allow you to avoid using multiple filters in the report making it easier to get the data you want.
Dimitry joined Gallery Systems in 1999. After receiving a MA from Harvard in History of Religion and Philosophy in 1995, Dimitry worked as the Collections Manager at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Asian Art Department. Dimitry creates customized Crystal Reports for TMS as requested by clients and also provides daily TMS support.
Are you interested in learning more about Crystal Reports? Check out our upcoming training sessions to get a one-on-one look into Crystal Reports for TMS.