Spreadsheet Reporting – No Room in Your Company in an Age of Business Intelligence

It doesn’t take a genius to understand why spreadsheet reporting still pervades the enterprise despite the rise of a complex but highly effective IT solution known to big shot CIOs as Business Intelligence or BI.

If you’re still in the dark as to what BI is, don’t worry because we?ll enlighten you shortly.

Business decisions from disparate data sources

In the meantime, let’s talk about how you make business decisions. If you’re a top executive, then you make decisions based largely on reports submitted to you by your managers, department heads, and so on. They in turn obtain information from different sources, like the company ERP and CRM as well as other external sources (e.g. market surveys).

Now, before their reports ever reach your desk, a lot of data is extracted, shared, filtered, analysed, consolidated, and summarised so that they become actionable information. In all these activities, one software tool gets to take part in most of the action – the spreadsheet.

The problem with spreadsheet reporting

The problem with spreadsheets is that they have very poor built-in controls. Thus, they are susceptible to human errors and are vulnerable to fraud. What’s more, collecting data and manually consolidating them into spreadsheets can be very laborious and time consuming.

If you don’t get accurate, reliable information, your judgement will be fuzzy and your business decisions compromised. In addition, if you don’t receive the information you need on time, your business will constantly be at risk of breaching critical thresholds, which may even force it to spin out of control.

Business Intelligence – actionable information on time

This is mainly the reason why large companies implement Business Intelligence systems. BI systems are equipped with built-in features like reports, dashboards, and alerts.

Reports consolidate data and present them in a consistent format composed of intuitive text, graphs, and charts. The main purpose of having a consistent format is so that you will know what kind of information to expect and how the information is arranged. That way, you don’t waste time searching or making heads or tails out of the data in front of you.

Dashboards, on the other hand, present information through visual representations composed of graphs and gauges that are aimed at tracking your business metrics and goals. The main function of dashboards is to feed you with actionable information at a glance.

Finally, alerts keep you informed when certain conditions are met or critical thresholds are breached. Because their main purpose is to prompt you at the soonest possible time wherever you are, a typical alert can come in the form of an SMS message or an email.

As you can see, all three features are designed to get you making well-informed decisions as quickly as possible.

The problem with Business Intelligence and the alternative solution

The usual problem with full BI systems is that they can be very costly. Hence, if your organisation does end up implementing one, chances are, not everyone under you will be able to access it. As a result, some departments will be forced to go back to using spreadsheets.

If your company cannot afford a full BI system, then that probably means you don’t need one. What you need is a more affordable alternative. There are actually Software as a Service (SaaS) Business Intelligence solutions that may not be as comprehensive as a full BI system, but which may suffice for small and mid-sized businesses.

The disadvantages of spreadsheets are more damaging than you could have ever expected. Be free of it now.

 

More Spreadsheet Blogs

 

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Top 10 Disadvantages of Spreadsheets

 

Disadvantages of Spreadsheets – obstacles to compliance in the Healthcare Industry

 

How Internal Auditors can win the War against Spreadsheet Fraud

 

Spreadsheet Reporting – No Room in your company in an age of Business Intelligence

 

Still looking for a Way to Consolidate Excel Spreadsheets?

 

Disadvantages of Spreadsheets

 

Spreadsheet woes – ill equipped for an Agile Business Environment

 

Spreadsheet Fraud

 

Spreadsheet Woes – Limited features for easy adoption of a control framework

 

Spreadsheet woes – Burden in SOX Compliance and other Regulations

 

Spreadsheet Risk Issues

 

Server Application Solutions – Don’t let Spreadsheets hold your Business back

 

Why Spreadsheets can send the pillars of Solvency II crashing down

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IT Systems Implementation

Are you ready to find out how your newly accepted IT system fares in the real world? Although a rigorous Acceptance testing process can spot a wide spectrum of flaws in a newly constructed IT system, there is no way it can identify all possible defects. The moment the IT system is delivered into the hands of actual end users and other stakeholders, it is effectively stepping out of a controlled and secure environment.

Thus, it is during this phase wherein issues having direct impact on the business can arise.

It is our duty to ensure that the Systems Implementation phase is carried out as thoroughly, professionally, and efficiently as possible.

Thoroughly, because we need to include all relevant data and other deliverables, eliminate hard-to-detect miscalculated results, and substantially reduce the probability of business and mission critical issues popping up in the future;

Professionally, because it is the best way to address the sensitive process of turning over a new system to users who have gotten used to the old one;

And efficiently, because we want to minimise the duration over which all stakeholders have to adapt to the new system and allow them to move on to the process of growing the business.

Preparation

Louis Pasteur once said, “Luck favours the mind that is prepared.”

While we certainly won’t leave anything to chance, we do put substantial weight on the Preparation stage of Systems Implementation. We’re so confident with the strategies we employ in Preparation, that we can assure you of an utterly seamless Deployment and Transition phase.

By this we mean that issues that may arise during Deployment and Transition will be handled smoothly and efficiently because your people will know exactly what to do.

Here’s how we will prepare your organisation for Deployment:

  • Identify all key players for the Systems Implementation phase and orient them on their specific roles. We’ll make sure they know what possible hitches may come their way and how to deal with them.
  • Identify all end users and their corresponding functions, then assign appropriate access rights.
  • Draw multi-layered contingency plans to capture and address each possible concern that may crop up during Deployment.
  • Prepare a systematic step-by-step procedure and checklist for the entire Deployment stage. Both of them should have been copied from a similar procedure and checklist used in the Acceptance testing phase.
  • Make all stakeholders understand the conditions required before Deployment can commence.
  • Set the appropriate environment so that all stakeholders know what to expect and when to expect them the moment Deployment commences.
  • Prepare Technical Services and Technical Support personnel for the gruelling mission ahead.
  • Make sure all communication processes are well coordinated so that everyone affected will know who to contact and how to get in touch with them when a problem arises.
  • Plan and schedule training sessions so that they can be conducted “just in time”. Training sessions conducted way ahead of Deployment are often useless because the trainees tend to forget about what they learned when the time comes to apply them. Similarly, training sessions conducted way after Deployment also become useless because trainees are seldom able to internalise instructions delivered during crash courses.

Deployment

There are two sets of issues to keep an eye on during Deployment:

  1. Issues directly related to the technology itself, e.g. application functionality and data integrity, and
  2. Issues emanating from the end users, i.e., their unwillingness to use the new system. One reason may be because they find the interface and procedures too confusing. Another would be due to other inconveniences that come with adapting to a new set of procedures.

Despite all the meticulous scrutiny employed during Acceptance testing, there are just some problems that are made obvious only during Deployment. Issues belonging to the first set are dealt with easily because of the plans and procedures we put in place during the Preparation stage. As an added measure, our team will be on hand to make sure contingency plans are executed accordingly.

While the second set of issues is often neglected by many IT consultancy companies, we choose to meet it head on.

We fully understand that end users are most sensitive to the major changes that accompany a new system. It is precisely for this reason why our training activities during Deployment are designed not only to educate them but also to make them fully appreciate the necessity of both the new system and the familiarisation phase they will need to go through.

The faster we can bring your end users to accept the new system, the faster they can refocus on your company’s business objectives.

Here’s what we’ll do to guarantee the smoothest Deployment process you’ve ever experienced.

  • Employ the procedure and checklist formulated during the Preparation stage.
  • Ensure all end users are well acquainted with any additional tasks they would need to perform (e.g. filling up manual logs).
  • Assess which legacy systems can still be used alongside the new technology and which ones have to be retired.
  • Supervise the installation and optimal configuration of all supporting hardware and software to make sure the likelihood of errors originating from them are brought to near-zero levels.
  • Supervise the installation and optimal configuration of the products themselves.
  • Carry out data migration tasks if necessary.
  • Organise and oversee parallel runs to check for data and report inconsistencies.
  • Conduct training sessions in a professional and well-timed manner to eliminate end-users’ feelings of agitation and to take advantage of memory absorption and retention duration as with regards to their assigned duties and responsibilities.

Transition

Do you often feel uneasy whenever the reins to a newly purchased IT system are handed over to you? Perhaps there are some issues that you feel haven’t been fully settled but, at the same time, find it too late to back out, having already invested so much time and resources.

Alright, so maybe the thought of “backing up” never crossed your mind. However, the concern of being “not yet ready” is raised by many organisations towards the tail end of most Deployment stages. This usually drags the Deployment stage into a never-ending process.

Our team of highly experienced specialists will make sure you reach this point with utmost confidence to proceed on your own.

To wrap up our comprehensive IT Systems Implementation offering, we’ll take charge of the following:

  • Verify that all deliverables, including training materials and other technical documentation, are accomplished and expected outcomes are realised.
  • Make sure all technical documentation are placed in a secure and accessible location.
  • Institute best practices to ensure the IT system becomes fully utilised and to reduce its exposure to avoidable risks.
  • Establish open communication lines with the Technical Support team to enable quick resolution of issues.
  • Ensure complete knowledge transfer has been fully achieved so that your people will spend less time calling Technical Support and more on operations contributory to business growth.
Directions Hadoop is Moving In

Hadoop is a data system so big it is like a virtual jumbo where your PC is a flea. One of the developers named it after his kid?s toy elephant so there is no complicated acronym to stumble over. The system is actually conceptually simple. It has loads of storage capacity and an unusual way of processing data. It does not wait for big files to report in to its software. Instead, it takes the processing system to the data.

The next question is what to do with Hadoop. Perhaps the question would be better expressed as, what can we do with a wonderful opportunity that we could not do before. Certainly, Hadoop is not for storing videos when your laptop starts complaining. The interfaces are clumsy and Hadoop belongs in the realm of large organisations that have the money. Here are two examples to illustrate the point.

Hadoop in Healthcare

In the U.S., healthcare generates more than 150 gigabytes of data annually. Within this data there are important clues that online training provider DeZyre believes could lead to these solutions:

  • Personalised cancer treatments that relate to how individual genomes cause the disease to mutate uniquely
  • Intelligent online analysis of life signs (blood pressure, heart beat, breathing) in remote children?s hospitals treating multiple victims of catastrophes
  • Mining of patient information from health records, financial status and payroll data to understand how these variables impact on patient health
  • Understanding trends in healthcare claims to empower hospitals and health insurers to increase their competitive advantages.
  • New ways to prevent health insurance fraud by correlating it with claims histories, attorney costs and call centre notes.

Hadoop in Retail

The retail industry also generates a vast amount of data, due to consumer volumes and multiple touch points in the delivery funnel. Skillspeed business trainers report the following emerging trends:

  • Tracing individual consumers along the marketing trail to determine individual patterns for different demographics and understand consumers better.
  • Obtaining access to aggregated consumer feedback regarding advertising campaigns, product launches, competitor tactics and so on.
  • Staying with individual consumers as they move through retail outlets and personalising their experience by delivering contextual messages.
  • Understanding the routes that virtual shoppers follow, and adding handy popups with useful hints and tips to encourage them on.
  • Detecting trends in consumer preferences in order to forecast next season sales and stock up or down accordingly.

Where to From Here?

Big data mining is akin to deep space research in that we are exploring fresh frontiers and discovering new worlds of information. The future is as broad as our imagination.?

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Symbion Pharmacy Services? Definition of Responsibility

A ?symbion? is an organism in a symbiotic (i.e. mutually beneficial) relationship with another one. In the case of Australia?s giant Symbion Pharmacy Services, this means supplying and delivering over-counter Chemmart medicines to more than 3,000 hospital and retail pharmacies, while remaining mindful of its carbon footprint.

In 1999, the company with the tagline ?life matters? and a desire to be seen as ?a good corporate citizen? decided it was time to measure exactly what it was pumping out from 12 facilities and over 200 vehicles. This was a voluntary decision as even now there is still no carbon emissions law in Australia (although no doubt being a ?first mover? will put the company in a competitive position when this inevitably comes).

Symbion decided to install emission detection devices and connect these to a central monitoring system with the intention of managing what these measured. There were two stages to this process. First, Symbion determined its reporting requirements based on one of its larger warehouses. Following that, it established a carbon footprint for each of its wholly owned and managed facilities. This put it in a position to:

  • Analyse total emissions down to a level of detail where it understood the contribution of each source
  • Use big data management tools to identify carbon hotspots for priority remedial action
  • Inform the affected workforce, explain the monitoring system and keep them in the loop
  • Separately manage energy abatement programs such as lighting and delivery routes

The program also had productivity spin-offs in that it focused management attention on the processes behind the emissions that were ripe for material and system improvements. It also provided marketing leverage. Symbion?s customers are in the wellness business, ahead of the curve when it comes to how emissions contribute to chronic illness, and aware of the cost of this in terms of human capital.

EcoVaro could help you manage your throughputs by analysing your data on our cloud-based system. This includes trending your metrics, comparing them to your industry seasonal average, and providing you with a business-like view of how well you are doing.

Our service reduces your reliance on (and the cost of) third party audits, and simplifies the reporting process to your controlling authority. It simply makes more sense to contract your software out this way, and only pay for it when you need it.

Ready to work with Denizon?