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<p class="head">BIRT Project Description and Scope</p>
<p>The Eclipse Business Intelligence and Reporting Tools Project addresses
a broad range of needs in the business intelligence and reporting space
using the Eclipse platform. </p>
<p>The business intelligence and reporting space is focused on tools and
capabilities that extract data from data sources, process that data, and
present the processed information to the end users. The information may
be needed to enable the users to perform their operational or analytical
job functions, or it may be customer-centric information such as a transaction
statement. The capabilities can range from application- and production-level
reporting, through ad hoc user-driven query tools, to highly interactive
multi-dimensional online analytical processing (OLAP) and data mining
tools. While many business intelligence and reporting applications access
operational data sources, it is often the case that developers provide
specific data warehouses to support the business intelligence and reporting
needs of an application. The tools in this space can include facilities
to help build these data warehouses.</p>
<p>It should be noted that a given application often needs a range of complementary
capabilities in this area to meet the needs of different users of the
application. For example, consider components of an online order processing
application: The individual order invoices will be printed for inclusion
in the shipping box and the shipping clerk will need an online or printed
shipping list (both production-level reports); while a product line manager
may want to perform ad hoc queries to see which products generate the
most returns; while the purchasing agent may use analytics to look for
trends and improve stocking levels. Providing a range of coordinated and
complementary capabilities under the Eclipse Business Intelligence and
Reporting Tools Project is intended to ensure that the developed technology
can effectively be used to meet this broad range of needs.</p>
<h1>Initial Goals</h1>
<p>Initially, the Project will focus on leveraging the Eclipse platform
to provide infrastructure and tools for the designing, deploying, generating
and viewing of reports in an organization, including ad hoc query and
reporting tools. While not an initial focus, the BIRT project scope includes
complementing these reporting capabilities with Online Analytical Processing
(OLAP) and Business Intelligence dashboard functionality. Over time, but
not in the initial scope, the creation of additional projects is anticipated
and encouraged to address additional aspects of business intelligence,
such as Executive Information Systems (EIS), statistical analysis, modeling
capabilities (what-if analysis), Data Mining Tools, Data Warehouse Modeling
Tools, Extract Transform and Load (ETL) tools and Data Quality Tools.</p>
<p>The initial deliverable of the Eclipse Business Intelligence and Reporting
Tools Project is to provide a robust platform that can be used to quickly
and effectively create and deploy reports with any degree of complexity
without having the developer create the data access, processing and formatting
logic using Java code or components. In the majority of cases, the report
developer will design a report within the Eclipse framework using a 100%
visual design paradigm. However, in recognition of the fact that the variety
of report layouts and complexity of data access is infinite, the project
will also support extensive programmatic customization of the report generation
processes, including programmatic creation of report designs.</p>
<h1>About Reports</h1>
<p>Reports extract data from a data source or sources, perform manipulations
and calculations on the data to answer business questions, and present
the results as information in a formatted and convenient form for the
business user to use. This information is then typically used for operational
or decision support purposes within an organization. Reports vary dramatically
in size, content and complexity and will include or combine characteristics
such as:</p>
<dl class="arrow-list">
<dt>Listings of information</dt>
<dd>Example: Transactions in an account.</dd>
<dt>Sorting, grouping and aggregation of data with and without subtotals</dt>
<dd>Example: A listing of all product sales for each sales person, grouped
by state.</dd>
<dt>Charts to present information in easy to understand formats</dt>
Pie chart showing an investor's portfolio allocation by High Growth/Growth/Income/etc.
<dt>Matrix or cross-tab layouts</dt>
<dd>Example: Financial budget reports with
cost codes as rows, columns for each month, and cells containing numerical
data for that cost code/month.</dd>
<dt>Delivery of information as one or a combination of web pages, PDF
files, printed documents, Excel files, etc.</dt>
<dd>Example: Frequent flyer
statement delivered as a web page online and a printed document in the
<dt>Precise, highly formatted layouts</dt>
<dd>Examples: Bank statements; utility
bills; commission statements; invoices; government forms.</dd>
<dt>Page navigation for long reports</dt>
<dd>Examples: Hundreds of pages corporate
cell phone usage bill with First Page, Next Page, Go to Page, etc. buttons).</dd>
<dt>Table of Contents</dt>
<dd>Example: Multi-page Investment Portfolio summary
with Table of Contents to quickly navigate to Account Summary; Fund
History; etc.</dd>
<dt>Keyword or content search within a report</dt>
<dd>Example: find information
on a customer in a 1000 page customer account report.</dd>
<p>This can be contrasted with data-driven JSP pages where the data manipulation
and presentation needs are more transaction driven and do not include
recurring reporting needs such as complex aggregation (performed outside
of the database) and highly complex layouts.</p>
<h1>Target Users</h1>
<p>For report development, the project broadly targets three classes of
<dl class="arrow-list">
<dt><b>Application Developers</b></dt>
<dd> These are Java developers who are
creating applications that include the need to retrieve data and present
that data in the form of reports. This is likely to be a subset of the
overall application and will include many of the characteristics discussed
above. In this case, the report generation and viewing will be embedded
in the overall application.</dd>
<dt><b>Report Developers</b></dt>
<dd>Report developers are not typically skilled
in writing Java code. They expect to use a visual desktop tool to create
any type of report - including defining database connections, report
content and report layout. These reports may then be deployed as part
of an application, or through an easy to use deployment framework.</dd>
<dt><b>Business Users</b></dt>
<dd>Business users often want to create their
own report layouts or customize existing reports. They work through
a very easy-to-use web-based report creation and editing facility to
answer business questions on an ad hoc basis.</dd>
<p>The project will address both the design time needs of report creation
as well as the run-time requirements of report generation and deployment.
A high-level architecture diagram is provided below. The project will
adopt and support accepted open standards wherever feasible.</p>
<img src="chart1.jpg" width="658" height="237"> <br>
<p>The Eclipse Business Intelligence and Reporting Project is divided into
a number of sub-projects that reflect the initial focus on the reporting
aspects of business intelligence and the high-level architecture of the
project. These are discussed in the sub-project section below. As discussed
above, the creation of additional sub-projects is anticipated and encouraged
to address additional aspects of business intelligence.</p>
<p>Due to the wide variety of potential applications, it is recognized that
BIRT cannot meet all the requirements of all applications. It is therefore
a core design principle for the projects within BIRT to support a broad
range of extension points within the tools and frameworks that allow developers
to address additional needs. These extension points may be utilized for
adding value in commercial products using BIRT, or may be developed and
contributed into the Eclipse open source community.</p>
<p>For example, logging tools can use BIRT's data extension point to plug-in
a data query user interface and access logic to read and process log files,
use BIRT's report engine to present the information in the log, and extend
BIRT's output/rendering adaptor to email or send a short message to a
user with the report output in a format targeted for that device.</p>
<p>We expect the Business Intelligence and Reporting Tools Project to produce
functional requirements that are more appropriately satisfied through
the Eclipse Project or other Eclipse foundational projects. In such cases,
the Business Intelligence and Reporting Tools Project PMC will coordinate
the corresponding Project PMCs the design and implementation of the corresponding