An Interview with Lopa Subramanian, Aras Product Manager
Martin: Before we start, give us a quick background of your experience and what you are responsible for today.
Lopa: I’m a mechanical engineer by education, and I have been in PLM and the enterprise software space for my whole career. I started in services with SDRC Metaphase and then moved to Aspect Development/i2 in their supplier relationship management area. I gained great experience in both services and presales working with utility companies, high-tech, apparel, retail, industrial and the auto industry. Prior to joining Aras, I spent a number of years at Siemens PLM working with Teamcenter.
Martin: Give us a summary of the Self-Service Reporting solution.
Lopa: Self-Service Reporting is specifically designed with end users in mind. An admin is not needed to set up reports although an admin can use this module as well. The users go into Aras Innovator, click on the item types and the properties they want to report on and go through a wizard-like interface to produce a report. They can then save that report (definition) and share it with their colleagues - people in different groups or identities. The saved reports can be run as needed. Users have options to format, include aggregations like counts or averages and incorporate charts and graphs as well as pivots in reports. It gives users a lot of flexibility without the need to have programming skills.
Martin: That raises several questions. First, did Aras leverage a reporting technology to support this or is this an original work that you guys did?
Lopa: We licensed a third party solution and wrapped it with Aras specific capabilities. Typically, when you think of reporting software, it is very database orientated. Users see table names and column names that may not mean much to the end user. We wanted to change that, so we’ve taken the engine and put our UI on it. A user will see familiar Item names and tab names instead of raw database names.
Of course, we store all the definitions in the database. So, if you are a consultant - that’s you VARs - you can define a bunch of reports in your data base and package that up for deployment on a customer’s database.
Martin: Nice. You mentioned graphics. Explain that further.
Lopa: Yes, as part of the wizard, users will find a tab for charts. They can add and configure as many charts as they want using the UI. You can add a pie chart or bar chart on the fly to the report, and then store the report definition.
Martin: In terms of the different presentation options, it sounds like you have the text and graphics. Is there an option to include images? Say, for example, I have images of parts, and I want to list them almost like a catalog.
Lopa: Yes, you have access to images and colors, and all of those should work seamlessly.
Martin: That type of output reporting formatting options are available?
Lopa: The report can be exported to PDF, EXCEL, WORD, CSV and XML.
Martin: That’s great. Talk about security and what users can see and not see.
Lopa: Permissions in Innovator are honored, and that’s a big deal! You don’t want people to be reporting on things they don’t have access to. By design, reporting only shows users the items they have access to.
Martin: Are there any setup, prerequisites or advance considerations for operating this application?
Lopa: First, it is a subscriber-only solution. You do need a separate activation key and it is included in the subscription at no extra charge. There is no extra setup … you simply install Innovator and the reporting module is included.
At the moment, there are no canned reports that are deployed with it. Maybe at some point we will think of building canned reports out of the box, but since the UI is easy to use, and pretty straight forward, users can quickly build reports themselves.
Martin: Nice. How long has this been out?
Lopa: It has been out since SP3, since the end of July.
Martin: Is there a demo online available?
Lopa: Yes, there is a short demo and a long demo on aras.com. (NOTE: We have referenced this demo in the Sales Assets repository).