Do the Basics First in Reports and Business Intelligence

It’s like baseball. You want to focus on the fundamentals before you try the expert moves.

Let’s say you’re watching your local team slide in the standings, as we have unfortunately seen with the Pittsburgh Pirates. You’ll hear the sportscasters and managers and coaches talk about getting back to the basics before they get fancy.

It’s a solid piece of advice. If you have complex systems, and not everything is working, it’s best to keep it simple, and focus on these basics first:

1) Know your desired outcomes. What do you want to know from your software and reporting systems? How will the business benefit from tracking this data? What insights do the higher-ups need to make important business decisions?

2) Identify only the data you need to gather to get those reports. Don’t add an extra field or two because you think you might use it in 10 years. Focus on what you need now and only in the near term. There is always room for improvement LATER.

3) Create a list of issues that need to be fixed. Add details to each item such as specifically how to reproduce the issue or where it is, what is the result you’re seeing now, and what result should you see.

4) Tackle each item one by one. Make a concerted effort to not jump ahead, not to tackle only the easy ones, and not to allow yourself (or whomever is implementing) to get distracted and go off and do other things.

If you’re able to execute these basics, then you will surely climb up in the rankings and have great success.

Case in point: We are working with large manufacturing company that was acquired and is experiencing similar issues. There are some legacy software, database, and reporting systems left behind, not all of which work. We are starting our work by helping them get back to what they’re calling “ground zero”. We are identifying what business outcomes they want from the system, defining the details of what needs to be fixed, and cranking through the issues one by one until they are all fixed. Once done they’ll be really happy and will be able to have the data needed to make important business decisions. They will also be in a much better position to define and pull out new sets of data for data analysis and reporting to take the business to the next level.