We’re getting down to the end of our research into software for managing grantmaking processes, with the review a number of existing packaged solutions, and one of the things that we’ve found thorny is the evaluation of system reporting features. It’s one of those areas where the most obvious way of evaluating for any particular grantmaker is to take a look at the existing reports and decide if they’re useful for their foundation’s particular needs.
But needs vary a lot in this area – and it seems to me that it’s likely to always vary, as most organizations have a desire to tailor reports to their specific processes – so it’s not a very useful criteria for our overall, meta-evaluation needs.
So we’re left with evaluating higher level things, which I’m not altogether satisfied with. Here’s the things we’re looking at – what do you think?
- Is there a core base of standard reports that meet a number of the most common needs?
- Are these reports tweakable – so that an organization can make a small change without re-building from scratch, and then save it?
- Can users can define sets of data based on some core key criteria (for grants management, program, grant status, cycle…. for donor management, this might be relationship, amount of past donations, geography), and then generate summary reports based on them?
- Can users can create ad-hoc reports which can include nearly any field displayed to users, or summary counts and totals, filtered by nearly any field, either within the system or by exporting the data to another tool, such as Excel?
- Can ad-hoc reports can be customized and polished without using another system, to include logos, headers, and sub-totals for data that include custom columns and filters?
- Are the reports – both the standard ones and saved one – listed in some organized fashion, ideally with a customizable “quick menu” of frequently used ones? Or must every user navigate through dozens of reports every time they want to run something?
So what do you think? If you were looking at a fairly large system (say, a mid-level donor database or case management system), would insight into these factors help you to make a decision? Or are there key things we’re missing?