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The Data Czar: Putting Reports in Their Place

December 22, 2009
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Reports are part of the lifeblood of a company since they play an instrumental role in the functioning of business processes. But look closely at the link between the reports and the processes. Which one is derived from where? As technology gives us the ability to look at information in multitudes of ways, it is essential to establish business processes first and then engage reports to support those processes.



Reports are mechanisms for sharing critical information and for tactical planning. They are typically generated from a specific software application or database containing a company’s proprietary data. The information displayed on a report is informative and can be used analytically. Sales report data, for example, should be laid out in a matrix showing pertinent information for sales executives and marketing teams.

A report can also be procedural, meaning that specific actions can be taken based on its contents. For example, a field report that instructs a survey crew on performing a specific survey should contain, at minimum, the project name, project manager, type of survey, location of the survey, plus related information like previously collected field data.

Reports can thus be considered part of the lifeblood of a company since they play an instrumental role in the functioning of business processes. Routine use of reports may therefore “habitualize” work processes. If you are getting a certain report that is required for your job function, your routine will be shaped by the information in that report. After some time, this routine becomes a culture in your environment. As a result, if the source of the report changes, the rest of the process must altogether change or conform to its cultural predecessor, disrupting the harmony within the organization.

Take a close look at your current reports and map them to current procedures and functions in your organization, and then take a look at your business processes. Is there a link between the reports and the processes? Which one is derived from where? As technology gives us the ability to look at information in multitudes of ways, it is essential to establish business processes first and then engage reports to support those processes.

Reports these days are software-based; hence, any enhancement in software will trickle down into the business culture. Targeting the business process first, regardless of software, immediately addresses specific functionalities. The improved procedures must follow suit.
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