Reporting is the nervous system of every business. It tells us when and where things are going well or poorly. However, way too often, many of us settle for sub-par reporting. There are a few dimensions upon which we allow this to be true. We often deal with reports with inaccurate or incomplete data. Also, we have to deal with information that is delayed or takes too long to pull up on screen. Imagine an animal that had a delay in the response of their nervous system. If it takes it too long to sense danger or respond to external stimuli, the creature is going to be at an evolutionary disadvantage. A business that is hampered by a similarly inferior nervous system will also face hindrances to evolutionary success.
In an ideal world, all reports that we wanted to see would be instantly available with entirely correct data. Assuming that none of us will live to see an ideal world, we need to accept that we have to compromise on these ideals. That said, we should expect that the reports that we need to make business decisions are readily available with correct data. We shouldn’t accept that reports that we need to look at everyday take several minutes or perhaps even more than a few seconds to generate. After all, time is money. We should expect that our systems are smart enough to know which reports we commonly look at and make sure that those are readily available to us.
Too often when designing data warehouses and other reporting systems, performance is a mere afterthought to all of the other functionality that is being provided. As business leaders, when we’re asked to oversee a project to produce (or procure) a reporting system, it is imperative that we pressure test the performance aspect of it. We need to make sure that the system not only performs well today, but that it has the ability to scale as our business continues to grow in the coming years.
We need to watch how the reporting system interfaces with other systems that are present in our enterprise. If it is going to be pulling data from a place that we know to have poor data quality, then we already know that we’re going to have errors in the reporting system. To ensure that the highest quality data available is being put into the reporting system (and that the calculations being done in that system are correct), much testing needs to be conducted.
As busy leaders and executives, we don’t have the luxury of manually redoing all of the calculations that our reporting systems do for us. Since we rely on these systems to be our nervous system, we need them to operate efficiently and correctly, giving us the best information possible. This will allow us to make good decisions for our organizations, leading to evolutionary or perhaps revolutionary levels of success.