Richard Bucker

next generation reporting

Posted at — Sep 13, 2019

The title of this article is a double entendre. If you have watched Star Trek the next generation then you know that LCARS is the Enterprise computer’s visual interface.

What is amazing about this interface is that it presents compact and actionable information. What you never see is pages and pages of endless scrolling rows and columns of data that the operator would need to scan thru to find the thing they needed. Also, when you think about the operators and in many cases the engineers like Wesley Crusher they used many of the same screens to “program” the computer.

Many years ago I was trying to get my company’s executive to accept the fact that Linux and BSD were good operating systems and in many cases better alternatives to Microsoft Windows. (at the time Oracle purchased or was about to purchase Sun Microsystems which had been on the decline for years and while Windows was increasing market share it was not ready for the enterprise or the internet. Remember that SQL Server bug of the default admin password and the number of machines that were pawned) Since the CIO was a big Star Trek fan I designed the system console after the LCARS designs.

Everything fit on a page. Red was bad, Green was good, Yellow and Orange were caution… and so on. And even though there was access to raw logfiles you could not get there until you exhausted the everyday path.

Now… over the last 5 years I have been knee deep in financial reporting systems. I designed a flow based programming DSL for generating reports quickly and in those 5 years I’ve created nearly 2000 to 3000 unique reports. Some are scheduled, some are exploratory, some were the equivalent to hello world.

But what I am finding is that after all that reporting and data warehousing and raw computing. What can we do to simplify reporting so that everything a CEO needs is on a single page and everything that a CSR or business manager needs is on a single page? And how can they manipulate that page to get the same work done. How can we get rid of the keyboard?