How Will You Provide Your CEO's Favorite Reports?
You've just spent four months doing your homework to replace your aging call-center and order management system. You've gathered user requirements, written an request for proposal, gotten capable vendors to bid on it, conducted demos and selected the finalist. Yet there's one more activity that, if not done superbly, will shake management’s confidence that replacement of the old system will go smoothly.
If you haven’t adequately studied how management at every level — from CEO to department managers — will get the information it's used to having in order to run the business on an online, daily, weekly, monthly and year-end basis, your credibility easily could suffer.
Even when business analysts feel they've done an adequate job of determining user requirements, this area frequently gets cut short. There are a variety of reasons:
- In requirements and demos, users often spend too little time reviewing the entire system. Some feel they can do it in half a day. In reality, it's a two-day task — and even then you run the risk of not seeing everything.
- Vendors have stopped developing reports. Yes, that’s right: no reports. “But we have online displays of data!” software vendors and less experienced users will shout. Of course, when you go live with the new system, users line up at your door and want to know, “Where are those 10 important reports I had in the old system?”
- Then there’s the fact that management, while sponsoring the systems replacement effort, takes little time to see whether its most important data is in the system or to find out how it'll get it from the new system. The biggest area of systems deficiency is the lack of plans and historical data. Many order management systems have been developed without history by product, category, list segment, total business by year or any other criteria. Management therefore has adapted with its own spreadsheets and access systems. How will it get the information in the formats it'll need?
- Software vendors convince users that they can develop the reports they need with Crystal Reports, a query language, or a data warehouse tool the vendor has included in the purchase agreement. But here’s the problem: Do you know how many and which reports will need to be replaced, or how much effort this will take? Our experience in implementing order management and warehouse management systems is that there are literally hundreds of reports that have to be replicated in order to be comparable. Working with a client recently, we discovered there were more than 200 key reports that would have to be replaced in some form.
Also, think about the reporting needs of various departments: