S*** Happens

Keeping your business intelligence reporting relevant

Where did those “S*** Happens” T-shirts and bumper stickers go? In today’s Snapchat world, that phrase is probably more appropriate now — I’m sure it is what Uber drivers say about replacing taxis. This fast-paced, change-oriented environment even impacts the placid world of business intelligence reporting: Google’s constant re-engineering, your company’s acquisitions, or even when that strategic initiative finally stops.

For a moment in time, your report is perfect. Perfect when drawn on the whiteboard. Perfect in the design document. Perfect during QA and User Acceptance Testing. Perfect because it influenced that big decision. But is it prepared to address change quickly? If not, it risks becoming irrelevant.

Fortunately, relevancy may simply require a small tweak or tune-up, bringing your report back in sync with the newest needs. Consider, if you will, the ever popular Executive Dashboard — since there’s a natural, seasonal cycle to executive decisions, a static dashboard runs the risk of irrelevance:
  • During budget season, include the budget section and metrics
  • When the quarter closes, focus on quarterly summaries
  • Stop reporting on that project that ended 2 months ago

Honor the natural change in decision support needs by engineering your reporting system to dynamically change. By going beyond traditional report governance and granting pro-active report evolution responsibility to the broader user community, you can ensure that dashboards are constantly relevant. In essence, you can crowd-source non-static requirements.

This pro-active report evolution strategy will increase BI accountability since relevancy leads to consistent report usage. And consistent report usage leads to increased data-driven decisions, which drives BI ROI. Regardless of the nature of the dashboard, be aggressive in monitoring report usage — and make sure to identify reports (and users) as interest waxes and wanes. Dive into the usage patterns by talking to users and make it your mission to understand report relevancy and report evolution.

As you work on this mission, you may find solutions as simple as creating four Executive Dashboards — one for each quarter. Or even one for each month. Some BI tools permit dashboards to dynamically change charts and other tools permit the user community to make online edits. Perhaps user patterns indicate that certain users regularly use multiple dashboards that can be efficiently combined into one. With a report evolution mindset, you will find creative solutions to keep your reports relevant. 

Don’t let your report become as outdated as my blog title. Because s*** does happen, and you need to update your message.

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