How to Use Formula Variables in Report Painter for Dynamic Trend Reporting

  • by Matt Christensen, Director of Enterprise Performance Management, PRAGMATEK Consulting Group
  • March 15, 2004
Upper management often needs reports that track financial trends over time, but the resulting reports can be inflexible, expensive, and confusing. The author shows power users how to create a single report that compares the closing period with plan, each of the previous four periods, quarter to date, year to date, and the corresponding time frames from the preceding year.

Many executives and managers want to make decisions based on financial trends over 12 history periods, four previous quarters, or some combination of these time frames. Consider a typical period close process. Reports are generated repeatedly to ensure that all required financial impacts have been recorded.

This reporting requirement has prompted a number of expensive and inflexible custom ABAP reports, Report Painter reports with complex and confusing selection screens, and manual processes that involve running a report several times in order to copy and paste data into a spreadsheet. Each of these methods fails to provide trend reporting that is simple to use and maintain.

One methodology allows power users to write and maintain their own trend reports using Report Painter. It is a problem-solving technique that goes beyond what you can find in the Help logic. I'll show you how to produce a single report comparing the period being closed with plan, each of the previous four periods, quarter to date, year to date, and the corresponding time frames from the previous year with the entry of just a single period. These reports require the end user to enter only a single fiscal period and year on the selection screen. This fiscal period is used as the base period in the trend report, and all other time periods are calculated dynamically.

This methodology makes use of Report Painter and a few repetitive formula variables. While this article focuses on Report Painter, users who are experienced with its set-based interface may also use formula variables in place of standard variables within Report Writer.

Formula variables are reusable components of Report Painter that contain simple calculations used to determine characteristic values in a report. They are used in lieu of hard-coding period values into report definitions. Whereas standard variables would force the user to manually enter many fiscal periods prior to running the report, formulas are used to derive the value of these variables. This functionality is available in all current versions of R/3.

Matt Christensen

Matt Christensen is the director of Enterprise Performance Management at PRAGMATEK Consulting Group in Minneapolis. He has more than seven years of experience implementing a broad set of SAP financial modules, including configuration and development in R/3, Business Information Warehouse, and Strategic Enterprise Management. Matt holds an undergraduate degree in computer science and an MBA in finance.

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