Drill Through Reports and Drill Down Reports Explained

What are Drill Down and Drill Through Reports?

Drill Down Report GraphicA drill down report is a report which allows users to navigate to a different layer of data granularity by navigating and clicking a specific data element on a web page or in an application. Drill down allows users to explore multidimensional data by navigating from one level down to a more detailed level. This allows users to view aggregated, summary data and then hierarchically explore deeper levels of the data for more specific analysis. Drill down is one of the key functions of Online Analytical Processing (OLAP), which enables users to answer complex multidimensional data queries.

A drill through report acts similarly to a drill down report by giving users the ability to navigate to a different layer of data by clicking a data element. However, whereas a drill down report allows you to remain within the same visualization type and window, a drill through report allows you to navigate to a completely different visualization or report, often in a new window.

From the user perspective, drill down exists within a graphical user interface for users to click on some representation of data to reveal finer levels of it. Conceptually, this exists everywhere in your computing atmosphere. Every day we click on folders on your computer to get somewhere more specific. We practice this on web pages when we click on links on a homepage to navigate through deeper levels from that page. On a daily basis, we drill down through data all the time.

This function exists also in many modern business intelligence reporting tools. Users may create interactive ad hoc reports that feature drill down reporting capabilities, allowing them to click on certain aggregated data values to reveal a more specific level within that hierarchy. This allows you to find the right level of data to answer your business questions.

 

Drill Down Report Example

This is an example of a Drill Down Report. If back-ordered is selected it drills down to only orders that are back-ordered

 

What are the Benefits of Drill Down and Drill Through Reports?

  • Drill down and drill through allows users to view data in a variety of ways without having to create new reports, dashboards, or visualizations. Being able to interactively dig through different data layers while remaining within one visualization enabling users to visually analyze data in-context.
  • Drill down and drill through reports allow users to view different layers of data easily, giving them the ability to garner data insights quicker. For example, a user could quickly view a nationwide breakdown of delivery times, answer the question which states have the slowest delivery times, which states have the fastest delivery times, within those states which counties or regions have the fastest or slowest delivery times, and finally drill down to see the specific logistic reports for any given delivery all while remaining in one report view.
  • Drill through reports specifically also allow you to show data in a completely different report structure with one click. This can be useful in many ways including something like a logistics report, where you may want to click through to specific shipping details document.
  • Drill down reports help server performance. By showing only one data layer at any given time, drill down reports reduce server querying times.

Self-Service: Drill Down in Use

Self Service Drill Down ReportsDrill Down Reports and Drill Through Reports are an essential part of the larger set of interactive features involved in self-service analytics. Let’s briefly review self-service and how drill down plays its role.

Self-service analytics, also know as ad hoc analytics is a feature set of BI whose purpose is to enable non-technical end users with the ability to create and edit reports providing greater data insights for decision support and business workflow enablement.  Depending on the feature set of the application and its core use, self-service often starts with your development team and your data.  Self-service relies on data being easily understood from the end user perspective and that’s often the first step for development teams. Structuring and defining a comprehendible data layer can be achieved in many platforms with a semantic metadata layer.  A metadata layer is a layer of semantic definitions used in place of complicated database names and structures.  In JReport, this semantic data layer is called a business view.

A business view is also where you would define many of the drill down functions you see within a drill down report.  In a business view, this is accomplished by defining a hierarchy of related data. For example,  Year, Month, Day or another example would be Country->State->County->City.  This type of data can be parsed out using formulas if your data isn’t in a format which makes it easy to structure in this type of top-down structure.  Once a hierarchy is defined in JReport, any report using the related business view can utilize the drill down function. This can save developers a lot of time compared to having to manually code this type of capability into every report.

The next step in enabling self-service is defining the security and permission definitions needed in your application.  In the case of JReport, this can be done using single sign-on technologies and JReport’s internal persmissioning system, or can be done via API, and can be done down to the row and column level.   JReport also fully supports multi-tenant architecture. With regards to drill down a simple example of this in use would be the previous hierarchy we mentioned: Country->State->County->City.  If you had, for example, a regional sales director who was in charge of a single country and a regional sales manager who was in charge of a select group of states within that country, you could enable them to only see the data pertinent to them. So the regional sales director wouldn’t be able to see international data, and the regional sales manager wouldn’t be able to see other states outside of his territory.

The overall net benefit of drill down and drill through reports in these examples is the ability the aforementioned users to create and manipulate reports which automatically include the hierarchal relationships we’ve defined.

Here’s a simple example, say that regional sales manager has 4 sales reps who directly report to him, each of whom has a single state as a territory.  Now imagine he has a report that was pre-built which shows sales to date by sales rep crosstab.  He may be interested in seeing more granular data in this report such as geographic data to see where each rep’s sales are really coming from. With self-service analytics, he can add an additional column to this crosstab which then parses out each sales reps sales by county. And if he wants to further explore a specific county, all he has to do is drill down to the city level, thereby gathering more data insights.

JReport, a Leader in Drill Down Reports for Embedded Use Cases

Drill Through Reports GraphicJReport gives development teams the ability to quickly and easily empower end users with drill down and drill through features. In JReport, development teams can create a hierarchal metadata layer we call a “business view” which with a few simple clicks allows developers to establish different data layers which are reusable on any report or dashboard created using that business view. This type of drill down enablement makes for an efficient development and end-user experience. Drill through reports are definable on a per report basis giving developers ultimate flexibility in defining the user data discovery experience.

JReport also has a strong foundation of experience in meeting complex reporting requirements. Its advanced reporting engine JReport Server, allows you to scale up and down as peak load times demand.  JReport supports scheduling drill down reports, delivering them at specific times, time intervals, or based on triggers. These triggers can either be built in based on meeting certain types of data requirements (for example, if you have a weekly budget and want a report of expenses when you have spent 80% of your budget for your week, JReport can do this). You can also build custom triggers through our API so that other parts of your application can trigger the running of drill down and drill through reports.  JReport also supports bursting of reports. Bursting reports is similar to scheduling reports, but takes it a step further by allowing you to burst reports to different users with different data based on the permissions of each user.  For example, if you have two users, a regional sales executive and a sales representative who’s in charge of only a single territory, you may not want to show the entire regional data to the sales rep who only owns a single territory. With JReport, you can use a bursting key to burst the same report to each, but only with the data that they’re supposed to see.  This helps save your development time and energy, particularly if you have large user groups. Instead of having to schedule separate reports for each user, you can schedule a single report that bursts out the correct information to the correct people.

Key Takeaways

  • Drill down allows you to explore multidimensional data by navigating from a general level down to the next.
  • Drill down exists in the user interface for users to click on some representation of data to reveal finer levels of it.
  • Drill down reporting offers the ability to dig deeper into reports for analytical purposes.

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