We have a report we produce every quarter that tells us useful information about the previous twelve months. We’ve been producing the report each quarter for the last five or six years and every time we run it we learn important lessons about our business and we make changes for the better.
Here’s the story of the report.
Let’s start at the very beginning
The source data we need is very easy to obtain, there are two downloads into Excel we run from our bookkeeping program. Once we have the data, we paste it into an Excel workbook and then have to perform hundreds of “copy and paste” repetitions to get the data in to a format that produces the information we need.
Over the years the source data hasn’t changed but the process has.
To begin with we had to write the spreadsheet so it would crunch the copied & pasted data correctly and give us the information we wanted and then we added one page that summarised this information for easy use. We review the summary page and drill down to the detail when we want to know more about an area of interest.
Having figured out how the spreadsheet should work it then took someone almost a week to crunch the numbers and give us the information we were after.
It was worth it – the report is brilliant!
Since then we’ve got more efficient at producing the report and quickly got the time down to around four hours.
A brilliant report now produced more efficiently and cheaply.
But why is there any human data processing, you may ask?
This year we set about changing how the report is produced. We learnt some new Excel formulae, got our heads around pivot tables and the report now takes an hour to produce.
Half of that hour is spent downloading and formatting the same two reports from our bookkeeping system and the other half is spent updating some of the formulae and re-working the pivot table. Hey-Presto we have the report ready to use only one hour later (and it’s a bit better too).
Which is great for us. We have a better report, produced more quickly and cheaply. In theory we could run it more often but part of the benefit is to look at it quarterly and see a broader picture emerge.
But where did the job go?
My colleague who did the data processing doesn’t miss it in any way, so in this case it’s a win:win.
I’m all for businesses using technology and I’m definitely in favour of making the right Management information available to improve every business.
But should we not pause for thought and ask wider questions about the march of technology?
Who are the winners and losers and what might be the impact on both?