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.

 

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2015 ESOS Guidelines Chapter 1 ? Who Qualifies

The base criteria are any UK undertaking that employs more than 250 people and/or has a turnover in excess of ?50 million and/or has a balance sheet total greater than ?43 million. There is little point in attempting to separate off high polluting areas. If one corporate group qualifies for ESOS, then all the others are obligated to take part too. The sterling equivalents of ?38,937,777 and ?33,486,489 were set on 31 December 2014 and apply to the first compliance period.

Representatives of Overseas Entities

UK registered branches of foreign entities are treated as if fully UK owned. They also have to sign up if any overseas corporate element meets the threshold no matter where in the world. The deciding factor is common ownership throughout the ESOS system. ecoVaro appreciates this. We have seen European companies dumping pollution in under-regulated countries for far too long.

Generic Undertakings that Could Comply

The common factor is energy consumption and the organisation’s type of work is irrelevant. The Environmental Agency has provided the following generic checklist of undertakings that could qualify:

Limited CompaniesPublic CompaniesTrusts
PartnershipsPrivate Equity CompaniesLimited Liability Partnerships
Unincorporated AssociationsNot-for-Profit BodiesUniversities (Per Funding)

Organisations Close to Thresholds

Organisations that come close to, but do not quite meet the qualification threshold should cast their minds back to previous accounting periods, because ESOS considers current and previous years. The exact wording in the regulations states:

?Where, in any accounting period, an undertaking is a large undertaking (or a small or medium undertaking, as the case may be), it retains that status until it falls within the definition of a small or medium undertaking (or a large undertaking, as the case may be) for two consecutive accounting periods.?

Considering the ?50,000 penalty for not completing an assessment or making a false or misleading statement, it makes good sense for close misses to comply.

Joint Ventures and Participative Undertakings

If one element of a UK group qualifies for ESOS, then the others must follow suit with the highest one carrying responsibility. Franchisees are independent undertakings although they may collectively agree to participate. If trusts receive energy from a third party that must do an ESOS, then so must they. Private equity firms and private finance initiatives receive the same treatment as other enterprises. De-aggregations must be in writing following which separated ESOS accountability applies.

The Matrix Management Structure

Organizations exploit matrix management in various ways. A company, for instance, that operates globally uses it at larger scale by giving consistent products to various countries internationally. A business entity, having many products, does not assign its people to each product full-time but assign those to different ones on a part time basis, instead. And when it comes to delivering high quality and low cost products, companies overcome industry pressures with the help of many overseeing managers. In a rapidly changing environment, organizations respond quickly by sharing information through a matrix model.

Understanding the Matrix Management Structure

A basic understanding of matrix management starts with the three key roles and responsibilities that applies in the structure.

  • Matrix Leader ? The common person above all the matrix bosses is the matrix leader. He ensures that the balance of power is maintained in the entire organization by delegating decisions and promoting collaboration among the people.
  • Matrix Managers ? The managers cooperate with each other by defining the respective activities that they are responsible for.
  • Matrix Employees – The employees have lesser direct authority but has more responsibilities. They resolve differing demands from more than one matrix managers while they work things out upwards. Their loyalty must be dual and their relationships with managers must be maintained.

Characteristics of a Matrix Structure

Here are some features that define the matrix management structure:

  • Hybrid Structure ?The matrix structure is a mix of functional and project organization. Since it is a combination of these two, matrix management is hybrid in nature.
  • Functional Manager ? When it comes to the technical phases of the project, the functional manager assumes responsibility. The manager decides on how to get the project done, delegates the tasks to the subordinates and oversees the operational parts of the organization.
  • Project Manager ? The project manager has full authority in the administrative phases, including the physical and financial resources needed to complete the project. The responsibilities of a project manager comprise deciding on what to do, scheduling the work, coordinating the activities to diverse functions and evaluating over-all project performance.
  • Specialization ?As the functional managers concentrate on the technical factors, the project managers focus on administrative ones. Thus, in matrix management, there is specialization.
  • Challenge in Unity of Command ? Companies that employs matrix management usually experience a problem when it comes to the unity of command. This is largely due to the conflicting orders from the functional and project managers.

Types of Matrix Structure

The matrix management structure can be classified according to the level of power of the project manager. Here are three distinct types of matrix structures that are widely used by organizations.

  • Weak Matrix ? The project manager has limited authority and power as the functional manager controls the budget of the project. His role is only part-time and more like a coordinator.
  • Strong Matrix ? Here, the project manager has almost all the authority and power. He controls the budget, holds the full time administrative project management and has a full time role.
  • Balanced Matrix ? In this structure type, both the project and functional managers control the budget of the project. The authority and power is shared by the two as well. Although the project manager has a full time role, he only has a part time authority for the administrative staff to report under his leadership.

Successful companies of today venture more on enhancing the abilities, skills, behavior and performances of their managers than the pursuit of finding the best physical structure. Indeed, learning the fundamentals of the matrix structure is essential to maximize its efficiency. A senior executive pointed out that one of the challenges in matrix management is not more of building a structure but in creating the matrix to the mind of the managers. This comes to say that matrix management is not just about the structure, it is a frame in the mind.

Failure Mode and Effects Analysis

 

Any business in the manufacturing industry would know that anything can happen in the development stages of the product. And while you can certainly learn from each of these failures and improve the process the next time around, doing so would entail a lot of time and money.
A widely-used procedure in operations management utilised to identify and analyse potential reliability problems while still in the early stages of production is the Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA).

FMEAs help us focus on and understand the impact of possible process or product risks.

The FMEA method for quality is based largely on the traditional practice of achieving product reliability through comprehensive testing and using techniques such as probabilistic reliability modelling. To give us a better understanding of the process, let’s break it down to its two basic components ? the failure mode and the effects analysis.

Failure mode is defined as the means by which something may fail. It essentially answers the question “What could go wrong?” Failure modes are the potential flaws in a process or product that could have an impact on the end user – the customer.

Effects analysis, on the other hand, is the process by which the consequences of these failures are studied.

With the two aspects taken together, the FMEA can help:

  • Discover the possible risks that can come with a product or process;
  • Plan out courses of action to counter these risks, particularly, those with the highest potential impact; and
  • Monitor the action plan results, with emphasis on how risk was reduced.

Find out more about our Quality Assurance services in the following pages:

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