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Asking Difficult Questions June 10, 2013

Posted by Ivor's Window to the IT and CRM World in Management, Microsoft CRM, Sales Management, Training.
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The Board Report (Asking those difficult questions).

Some years ago I was involved in a CRM project for a Financial Institution, where the Microsoft CRM system we were implementing was to replace an existing legacy system. One of the primary requirements of the new system was that the reporting should replace the manual reporting that was currently in place for the monthly board report.

What they were doing at the time was taking information fom the existing system, supplementing this with data from some other places and eventually charts and tables were created in Excel all of which were incorporated into a weighty tome, beautifully printed and bound and then delivered to the executives on a monthly basis. I was told that the new auto generated Board Report should look identical to the manually created one.

As we needed to create these charts with SQL Server Reporting Services, I was very surprised to find that a number of the charts were identical, in one version the X Axis and Y Axis would represent the data, and then in another chart the axis’s were switched around but it was exactly the same chart with the same data. This was repeated with the tables.

When I queried this I was told, that this is the way it has always been done (See my blog… http://wp.me/s1kkKG-129) and that the executives on the board would not take kindly to having the monthly board report changed. I was told “They won’t like it if you change it”. Not being one to shirk away from asking difficult questions, I made an appointment to speak with one of the recipients of the report, who quite cheerfully told me that this 50 page report that was supplied had very little information of real importance with the exception of the financial summaries on the final two pages, which was the main metric for the management of the business.

What is important here is a valuable lesson in business analysis. Sometimes junior staff will not question things when they involve very senior management and the assumption that you need not question the executives as part of the project is bit of a misnomer. Always ask the questions. In this case the information supplied in the board report was vital for management in terms of decision making, but only a little bit of information.

This is blog number 11 in the series “The more things change the more they stay the same”.

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