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Posted Oct 6, 2003

MS Access for the Business Environment: Reporting in MS Access: Grouped Transactional Report Part II

By William Pearson

About the Series ...

This article continues the series, MS Access for the Business Environment. The primary focus of this series is an examination of business uses for the MS Access relational database management system. The series is designed to provide guidance in the practical application of data and database concepts to meet specific needs in the business world. While the majority of the procedures I demonstrate will be undertaken with MS Access 2002, many of the concepts that we expose in the series will apply to other versions of MS Access.

For more information on the series, as well as the hardware / software requirements to prepare for the tutorials we will undertake, please see Tutorial 1: Create a Calculated Field with the Expression Builder.

Introduction to this Tutorial

This is the second half of a two-part tutorial that explores the creation of a basic transactional report that groups the information it presents at multiple levels, at most of which a corresponding total will be displayed. This article continues with the preparation we performed in Reporting in MS Access: Grouped Transactional Report Pt.I, where we established our data source as a query we constructed in the Northwind sample database.

In Part I, we discussed the requirements that the report will need to address, then listed the general steps involved in professional report design and creation. We then began to design and create our illustrative report in a hands-on manner, following many key steps that are common in a successful report writing project within a collaborative business environment. Within each step, we discussed the details involved and the results that we sought to obtain within our design.

The report that we began to create in our lesson focuses on orders placed by the customers of Northwind. It's objective is to present summary information about orders placed by customers over year-to-date and other time intervals - intervals that can be controlled by a given information consumer at report run time. We discussed some of the specific business needs that the report will need to address.

In this article, we will pick up where we left off with the common steps for successful reporting efforts, focusing initially on "pre-setting" the sorting and grouping of data in the report. We will then select data, from the data source we created in Part I, for inclusion in our report. After entraining the data, we will focus upon the arrangement of labels and text in the report, the establishment of settings based upon grouping, and the handling of other attributes specified by the intended audience. Finally, we will briefly discuss the review and refinement of the report based upon feedback that we receive from information consumers, who ideally review the report at various evolutionary stages.

NOTE: To perform the steps of this lesson from the starting point that follows, you will need to have completed the steps we undertake in our last lesson, Reporting in MS Access: Grouped Transactional Report Pt.I.

A Review of the Common Steps for Successful Reporting

In Part I, we discussed that, as diverse as they may be in scope and purpose, and as different as the industries and sizes of the organizations for whom we are consulting to complete them, the majority of reporting projects are composed of several common steps that bring about a successful conclusion. Those steps, again, include:

  • Gather the business requirements.
  • Design the report.
  • Locate and access the data.
  • Create the new report.
  • Establish report characteristics.
  • Set up sorting and grouping of data in the report.
  • Select data and include it in the report.
  • Arrange labels and text in the report.
  • Establish display and other settings based upon grouping and other attributes.
  • Review and refine the report based upon the input of its intended audience.

Due to the differences in each unique reporting project, the order of the above steps may differ. In addition, there may be different iterations of many of the steps, as the feedback we receive from the intended audience, procured throughout the report development cycle, as opposed to at the end only, will often drive stepping back through formerly completed steps to make the adjustments required to meet more refined requirements. The sooner we can identify these modifications, which often come to light only after the information consumers are shown our evolving designs, and after they get a feel for potential capabilities they may not have expected in the initial requirements gathering discussions, the less rework we are compelled to perform. Again, the key is recurring communication and synchronization of our efforts with the needs of the intended audience.

We will rejoin the report design we began in Part I at the "Set up sorting and grouping of data in the report" step in our procedures above.

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