The purpose of this blog series is to describe the top 12 steps to ensure successful software implementation. The first six steps, Planning, Process Design, Solution Design, Configuration, Customization, and Integration were discussed in my previous blog posts.
This post is about Reporting, which is the time spent determining what information your business needs to make decisions, both tactical (immediate decisions for today) and strategic (longer term decisions for the future). The outcome of a successful reporting phase in a project is that business users will be able to get information from the system that aids them in decision making.
It is important to note that reporting means different things to different people. Historically, the only way to get information from a system was to create routines that organized data and then reported that data on paper. The business software available today allows you to obtain information from your system in a variety of ways including views and dashboards. Creating hard copy paper reports is not always necessary or preferred. For the purpose of this blog we will use the term “reports” to mean all these methods.
A typical reporting cycle can look like this:
Business User: Can I get some reports?
Report Writer: What do you want to see?
Business Users: My Sales Information. Just put it together in the normal way.
Report Writer: I can try, but I am not clear on your requirement.
Business User: I am sure it will be fine.
Report Writer: Your Reports are ready.
Business Users: This is not what I need at all!
The reality is that the business users have to be very specific about what they want to see on their reports, views and dashboards. Creating mock up examples in Excel using real data can help bridge the communication gap between business users and technical report writers.
The process of getting the right reports starts during the Design phase. If information needs to appear on reports, it needs to exist in the system. If the system data is summarized, then details cannot be reported on. If users refuse to enter certain data because it is too time consuming, then reports on that data will not be possible.
The process to plan, design, configure and build reports needs to be done simultaneously with the overall project. You will only get out of the system the views, dashboards and reports based on the data you put in.
What you will find when you are finished creating the necessary reports (views and dashboards) is that the software is ready to be tested. In order for users to test the solution, they need to be trained. Testing and Training will be covered in my next two blog posts.