Victoria, the Report Designer doesn't know where to find the field she is looking for. She knows what type of information she needs, but not the field name or table name per se. Victoria needs a way to more quickly and easily find the field that will produce the data she needs.
Metadata could give users a broader set of information to search, sort, and filter by. It could also be used to present the users with less information to dig through. This meta-data may apply to reports, tables, and fields.
Within metadata, the concept of 'Business Categories' was brought up multiple times. Metadata could help to organize reports, tables and fields in a way that is already familiar to the user, like by business function or role. Scott suggested inferring business categories from the role centers in NAV. Some examples of potential business categories included Sales, Finance, and Inventory.
Amy and Hughes suggested that the NL function could be filtered by business category. For example, if the user opened a "NLSales()" function, the function wizard would only display tables and fields relevant to a sales report.
Image: Hughes and Amy - Filter Tables by Type, and NLSales()
Another type of metadata would indicate which tables and fields are most commonly used in reports. This would limit the set of total information available to choose from to just information the average user is likely to choose from. One group suggested this could work like the 'Favorites' feature, but that this classification could be pre-defined by Jet Reports.
Matt and Sarah suggested that fields could be filtered by data type, so if the user knew that what they were looking for was a text, number, or date field, they could filter to see fields of only that type.
Hughes and Amy suggested that tables could be organized by whether they were classified as a base table or a transaction table.
Image: Matt and Sarah - Filter Fields by Type
Multiple groups stated that it would be good to pre-define metadata, but let users customize the metadata, like for example, to create their own business categories. Brian suggested that users could also modify which tables and fields belonged in which business categories.
Below is a mock up illustrating how the various types of metadata could be used in the Browser or Jet Function Wizard.
With AI, the software obscures the complexity needed to produce a report so that the user can communicate in human or business terms, instead of in database terms.
The concept of natural language search was primary in two groups' ideas (Matt and Sarah, as well as Sam and Bryan). In a natural language search, the software would be able to read questions worded however the user writes normally, and would make intelligent guesses about what report that user wants.
Here were some examples from the brainstorm:
Image: Matt and Sarah - The "Magic Box"
Another idea related to this was displaying web/help results so the user could go learn how to do the thing they are requesting. This would search all of our web properties and bring back relevant results.
Sam and Bryan commented that the users may sometimes ask questions that are too vague for an AI to produce a useful report. In this case, they suggested, the AI could ask the user to make clarifying choices, for example, if a user types "I want a balance sheet", the software could respond "What year do you want?".
Image: Sam & Bryan - The "Digital Jet Guru"
Scott and Brian described another use for the software asking questions. Instead of clarifying natural language search, these series of questions would help the software make decisions to structure a report.
For example, it could ask a series of questions like:
Image: Brian & Scott - The "Jet Application"
Ideas that involved artificial intelligence implied that the software could make use of templates to make intelligent guesses about how the report should be structured, which fields are related and should be included together, and common row and column formats based on the type of report.
Ideas that involved a report building tool suggested that the user should be able to view a preview to get timely feedback on their choices, and be given a chance to change their choices.
Brian and Scott said that to be able to do this report building effectively, the application would need to live outside of Excel, and include the option to send the resulting report to Excel.
One major issue related to finding data involves finding data that lives on a different table than the table which contains the first field the user selected.
Matt and Sarah suggested indicating within a list which fields could serve as a key to link tables together.
Bryan suggested that the software could abstract table linking one degree further by suggesting fields from other tables that are commonly used in combination with the field the user just selected, and offer to add these, taking care of linking the tables on the back end.
These ideas were generated during brainstorming, but didn't appear in sketches or discussions.
In addition to evaluating the impact and effort of these ideas, we identified themes for ideas, which are color-coded below.