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The Beginning  

It’s funny, you decide that you are going to write your first blog, you sit down, get everything ready, and then… nothing, you sit here, with a hot keyboard in front of you, and you are suddenly gripped with fear.

What do I write?, will anyone find it interesting?, will anyone care?

It’s my first time really writing one, I have tried before, I have facebook, I have myspace, I even have a work network capable of it, but every time I have tried, nothing, the heart is in it, just the keyboard, fingers & brain won’t work together to make it happen

So this time, I thought it would be different, this time I decided, having spent a frustrating day trying to solve a crystal reports problem that I would do it, get all that pent up emotion out in the open and spill my guts out to all that wish to read.

So, where do I start, well, I guess introductions are always good!!.

Where It All Began

I have been working within the IT industry for a little over 10 years, in which time I have been employed buy many different companies, with many different approaches to IT and IT staff. Before that i worked for over ten years in the catering industry, yup, a major change, but I needed it.

I have worked for small companies with big ideas, big companies with large ideas and companies with no ideas, I have worked for government agencies, and companies that work for governments, so all in all quite a range of them, as both a contractor and also as a full time employee, the one thing they all have in common however, is little or no reporting structure.

Yes, ok, that’s a pretty broad statement, but if you bare with me I will explain.

Yeah, what’s her name in Admin does mine….

All companies, no matter how big or small, nowadays have to report something, be it financial reports to the board/shareholders, weekly figures sales figures, monthly stats, whatever it is, all companies do it, big or small,
and yet, almost without exception they have no actual policy or commitment to correct tailored reporting.

Yeah, ok, they have reports run, usually by sales managers, (Although more likely by the admin person in the office), finance often have SAGE, which has it’s own playable with reporting, IT often have bespoke or ad-hoc reporting, and all of these ard cobbled together, in to either EXCEL, with pie charts and flow charts and facts and figures, or in one of those really boring powerpoint presentations that we have all been to.

Even if they have some form of reporting procedures in place, you try and find where they are documented and even trying to get up to date version of that documentation can be a nightmare in itself.

Policy, What Policy?

Trying to suggest that we have a policy, a naming convention, even a central list of all reports and updated dates, what it does etc etc, and the reaction you get for some reason, especially in smaller companies and especially those that had to really work at getting information out of the ‘Damn software’, suddenly become very insular, they will not let you know what they did or how it works, ‘…documentation?? it just works and it took me weeks to get the &^*%$?@$ thing working at that’ It suddenly becomes a battle ground, lines are drawn, barnets set and mine fields primed.

Any policy worth it’s salt has to be seen to be offering value to the company, as well as individuals, but this policy has to also be achievable, and it has to be seen from the bottom up that the board/management agree with it, endorse it, embrace it, whatever, either that, or you can spend far too long trying to deal with people rather than dealing with the problem that caused this bright idea to be thought of in the first place, and yes, before you ask, I have been in that situation more than once.

So what am I getting at in this? well, I have used many different reporting packages, from SQL’s to EXCEL, from Crystal Reports 3 up to XI and through to Xcelsius, and I still find Crystal the most friendly one I have come across.

Despite the odd hiccup now and again, usually down to incomplete requirements from people who want the data ‘NOW’, then when they have it, decide actually the tweaks that we discussed may have been better from the start, and also databases that where never designed to be reported against, so have no real commonality or naming convention that doesn’t need the ‘Super Hero Decoder Ring’ from a box of cornflakes to work out, and all in all it is still the best tool for the job, I just wish that some people here where I work would see that.

Nearly at the end..

I will give you an example to finish on, a lady I work with, despite having had three versions of Crystal reports loaded on her machine, and having a raft of reports written for her, many by yours truly, will not use it, why???? because she has had no training!!!!!

Thanks for listening, and in the words of the late great Yoda, ‘…Don’t try, Do’

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1 Comment

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  1. Timo Elliott
    Jeff — Great post, and I’m sure lots of people will be nodding their heads as they read it…

    Ultimately, successful business intelligence is about people and culture. Technology can only help to a certain extent, by making the process less painful, and by providing a “compelling event” and a forum for fixing the underlying business issues… Good luck with your BI projects and blogging career!

    BI Questions Blog: http://www.timoelliott.com

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