Updated from original March 2016 publication.
One of the most befuddling concepts for new users of association management systems (AMS)—and customer relationship management (CRM) software too—is query vs. report. What’s the difference between AMS queries and AMS reports? They both involve getting data out of the system and into your hands, but each has a specific purpose.
AMS queries vs. AMS reports: what’s the difference?
You can use a query to pull data from a database without having to rely on your in-house AMS/CRM expert or IT department to build a printable report. In some systems, a query is called an “advanced search.” With a query, you can access data from several areas of the database to develop a list or spreadsheet. For example, you want to see a list of all first-year members in New England who have not registered for an upcoming event in Boston.
The results of the query are displayed in a visual format similar to Excel—you can even download the query output to slice and dice the data as you wish. You can also merge the data into a formatted Word document.
AMS queries are more flexible than reports because you are not stuck with a predefined set of options and format. They also give you more flexibility in fine-tuning or filtering your search in real time, like expanding the results to include members in New York.
An AMS report, on the other hand, uses predefined data criteria to produce a formatted document designed for a specific task and suitable for printing, for example, a printable invoice or roster with a well-designed header and footer. Creating a new report can be costly or complicated because you need the technical skills of a developer or IT person.
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When should you use an AMS query?
An AMS query is best suited for the ad-hoc questions you have for the system. For example, you could use a query to find out:
- Which first-year members attended our most recent webinar?
- Who are active members in the San Antonio area who can reach out to a new inactive member in that same area?
- Which members might be interested in a new association publication because they purchased an earlier book by the same author?
You can view and work with the query export in Excel or Word to further analyze the data. Many systems recommend the use of queries over reports due to the ease and control granted to the user to gather and format the information. So, if the final printable output changes on a regular basis, a query may be the most resourceful way to go.
When should you use an AMS report?
A report is best for regular, formatted system output such as invoices, financial reporting, and dashboards. AMS reports use predefined data criteria to produce a visually pleasing document or display time after time at the click of a few buttons, without user intervention or manipulation. Once a report is developed, the user only has to point, click, and print.
When speaking with your database administrator or solution developer, only use the term “report” when you want output to have a consistent, pleasing design for distribution with no manipulation from you. Use the term “query” when you want to get access to the raw data to slice and dice.