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CrystalReports
on Steroids

Crystal Reports: Use Alerts to Audit Transactions in a Crystal Report

We were working on a report that used two years of sales transaction data to calculate This Month, Year to Date, and equivalent numbers for last year. We asked ourselves the question of how to audit this report, and needed an easy way to examine some of the thousands of records to see if our numbers were correct.

We used report alerts, where we made the alerts specific to a product and date range, and when these alerts were triggered we could use the Alert view to confirm our numbers against the balances inside the application.

Rerunning the report against other products and data ranges let us randomly check a sample of the report data. The great thing was that within the alert, drill downs were still possible, so additional filtering helped to confirm the numbers in the report.

 

Report Alerts first appeared in Crystal Reports 8.5, so older versions do not have this feature.

The good news is we have a User Function Library that can do this in older versions. You can action this in any formula with:

if {Customer.Last Year's Sales}<30000 then GetVolAlert ("Sales missed target",{Customer.Customer Name})

Click here to purchase this function

If you aren't doing alerts, you need to look into that. Alerts allow you to create filters to provide additional analysis on your report data.

The example we use on training courses is to start with an Aged Trial Balance Report, and create two alerts:

  1. An Alert of any customer who is over 3 months overdue
  2. An Alert of any customer who owes more than $100,000.

The Alerts are triggered when the report data are refreshed, and the alert form is displayed. You can filter by any combination of the Alerts. If you select several alerts by using the Ctrl or Shift key, then click “View Records” the alert view will only show records that meet both Alert criteria.

You can easily create an alert. Just use the Alerts function from the Reports menu. Report Alerts are actually custom messages you create, and these get displayed based on conditions you set. So an alert could tell report users that their expenses are at 80% of budget. This kind of alert gives people time to prevent an overbudget problem from occurring.

You might take some time to talk with users about what kinds of alerts they need for auditing purposes. Get those set up, see what needs tuning, then pick another alert theme. Approaching budget limits is always a good one.

When you get a few categories going and you aren't driving users nuts with nuisance alerts, then work on a combined alerts strategy.

Once you've developed the strategy, don't just roll it out. Test it. Advertising your mistakes to your boss or to that dweeb who controls the layoff spreadsheet is generally not a good idea. Here's one way to protect your job:

  1. Find a couple of test subjects. Tell them that when this works, you will give them credit and they can claim their contribution on their performance appraisal.
  2. Try out various types of alerts, and see how they work together. Test for at least a week, so the nuisance factor, if any, has time to make itself felt.
  3. Roll out to a single department, after talking with that department's manager and getting one person assigned to be your point person. This person will let you know what needs fixing, but if you get feedback from anyone else in that department act on it as well.
  4. Work out any kinks, then repeat the previous step with another department.
  5. If things went smoothly, do a wider rollout. If not so smoothly, continue with smaller rollouts.

Now, your boss might start hearing about alerts and wonder why s/he isn't getting any. Your simple explanation is these are functional to each department and you are making each department happy to reflect well on your own department and your boss.

 

This article is copyrighted by Crystalkeen, Mindconnection, and Chelsea Technologies Ltd. It may be freely copied and distributed as long as the original copyright is displayed and no modifications are made to this material. Extracts are permitted. The names Crystal Reports and Seagate Info are trademarks owned by Business Objects.

 

 

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  • Crystal Reports is a subsidiary of Business Objects, which is owned by SAP.