Trusting your reporting data – Part 2

Rarely, is the truth in plain sight.  When faced with disparate systems, applications, or sources, gathering the data in a single place is only half the battle. The second half of the equation is putting in place a stringent set of data standards that would enable users to slice and dice data in whatever context they need it.  Creating a database that provides a holistic view of all relevant domains and focusing on information content initially rather than on its delivery is the caveat here.   People seem to preach to the “single version of the truth” and what they immediately think about is the reporting tools.  Reporting tools are great, but without the data infrastructure in place, you’re just getting “garbage-in-garbage-out” in a prettier format or dashboard.

The truth can be a moving target.  The definition of standard business & financial rules is an iterative and perpetual exercise.  The re-defining of the business terms must be handled and governed by a dedicated data management team proficient in data science or data stewardship.  The latter IT team must support a multi departmental approach in order to collect all “single versions of the truth” and resolve organization wide discrepancies across LOBs to re-establish and attain agreed upon business standards.

Getting to that truth could prove to be political.  How does one get everyone on board and on the same page?   Do you find a champion or a strong executive sponsor to enforce these business and data standards and the agreed-upon KPIs for reporting?  The latter school of thought is the traditional manner to get a company to achieve the single version of the truth, however, it hasn’t been as successful in recent years due to the backlash from “data starved” end users.

Thus, a second approach has developed to get to the one version of the truth and that is to employ a more of a “grass-roots” strategy.  Successful organizations have been appealing and preaching to the data hungry end users.  The former “CXO enforcer” approach traditionally hasn’t endured and after a while it fizzled out.  The argument here is, if end users could get accurate information in a timely manner, it would simplify their daily tasks and thus their incentive to make the project a reality was greater.

The truth is best delivered and disclosed at set times and in bite sized chunks.  Information should really be delivered in a way it can be digested and used in making sound business decisions.  Having the version of the truth delivered every 5 minutes doesn’t really help much if managers are consuming near real-time data in operational & financial reports at different periods of the day.  The information may vary, representing multiple versions of the truth which can create not only information overload, but data chaos rather than information clarity. A better strategy would be to publish updates at prescribed times throughout the day.

Finally, don’t make assumptions about the kinds of information users will want next. It’s best to let end users work with the information they currently have and give them the time to absorb and to trust the single version of the truth they are being delivered.  It’s best to avoid rushing delivery of complex information and let the users tell you they are ready to see and want more detail in their information and then to start building data marts addressing their evolving questions and requirements.

If you build it, they will come…

What would the “single version of the truth” look like for your organization?  Find out how NewIntelligence can assist your financial and management executives establish your company’s version of ‘the truth’ and in turn help deliver data to your users they can analyze and act on, while making better business decisions that contribute to the company’s bottom line.

Read our first blog on Trusting your reporting data

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