Friday, 5 April 2013

Business Operations, Data Collection and Reporting.

I was speaking with one of my friends. He too works with an MNC. Talk was about work. Along with the usual lament on work life balance, he cursed about reports and data. I asked him some questions to get more information to satisfy my conscience that all are sailing in the same boat. I love reports and analysis, but despise the way data is collected most of the time. My friend started swearing about the people working on data and reporting. I asked him to cool down by saying most of us are not dreading the data collection but the queries that come after comparing different reports.

He agreed, but said that there should be a mechanism to avoid the discrepancy in data collection. Maintaining a spreadsheet is a most despised thing as I understand from experience many employees hate spreadsheets and especially the data filling part. My question to him was "What if we dump spreadsheets and get some other source like MS Info path or MS Sharepoint etc?" He opined that this approach too would be Sierra square, Delta, Tango (SSDT) meaning Same S**t Different Tool. We coined this during a review with a quality manager in our previous job in the lines of Sierra Square - Delta Square (SSDD) meaning Same S**t Different Day.

I asked him to elaborate. He said he is filling some 7 reports a month for the work he does. 'That is quite low a number', I quipped and looked at a different direction to avoid his eyes.

He then explained that all of his team are doing this exercise of filling multiple forms for the same data to be reported with different views to different audience. I told him to elaborate on what is happening.

He said there are some 3 different monthly reports. One for the Operations Management, other one for the Finance Management, and another one for the Capability Management. People are filling 3 different forms for these reports at 3 different points of time in a month.

Then there are two weekly reports for managing the Service Level and Operational Level agreements and 2 different forms are being filled in for that. All these 5 reports are client oriented as they are meant to drive the improvement of Service Delivery. Some key aspects from these analysis are discussed with the clients.

Apart from these 5 two different set of internal reports for the internal team managers. They are getting this report for analysing the capacity utilisation of the employees and looking for any opportunities for process improvement.

I asked him why all the required data be cannot be collected at one point and reports with different views generated from that repository. He said the idea is good but not feasible for implementing.

I wondered why. He said with different audiences requiring different types of analysis, multiple forms need to be filled in. Nope. This is lack of understanding of the problem. The requirement is different types of analysis for the same data. Here the data source and data are the same. The analysis needs to be done differently. So, how does the filling of multiple forms for the same data is given a business justification? This is repetition of task.

My friend started looking at me with some difference in his eyes. He conceded, "Yes, you have a point buddy." He now asked me how we can implement this idea. I told him to collect all the data with all relevant queries for all the different analysis needed. Then generate reports from that repository with the required queries for the audiences. Analysis of the data needs to be done and that is the analyst's job.

In this way of data collection,

  • We can reduce the time spent in collecting data.
  • We can drive the data collection with one point and not multiple points, since driving multiple points of data filling is repetition of task and does not motivate employees.
  • We can definitely reduce the time people spend on filling out multiple data forms.
  • With reduced time of data filling, analysis can be done quicker and better.
  • Business Analysts can find time to analyse the current trend and be proactive with his/her suggestions for improvement.
  • With the data reporting simplified, we can get more time to analyse and drive the business with the findings.
  • He, as a team lead, will get time to work on improvements and thus delivering better results.
  • With data available at any point in time, people need not run around when a new or different kind of analysis is asked for.

My buddy was elated. He asked me to give more suggestions particular to his problem and he would take it to his management and make the work life better.

My reply was "Sorry mate! I do freelance consulting buut not free consulting. Friendly advice stops with generic suggestions. If you need a particular problem analysed and advised upon, I charge for it."

I cannot write here, the words he showered me with thereafter :(

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