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When it Comes to Reporting, Foresight is the Key to the Cabinet

by Dave Hannon

March 15, 2011

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Dave Hannon
@Daveatwispubs

While waiting for a train this week and I overheard a conversation (I know, rude, but..) that I think serves as a good reminder for most ERP users.

From what I could gather, the conversation was between two academic administrators and regarding a database their organization had developed to track all of the students that had applied to their institution. The database, however, was not developed by the administrators. It was developed by the IT organization with an extremely limited amount of input from the user community. The problem, said one administrator, was the database was basically nothing more than an electronic file cabinet.

All of the applicants’ information was stored in the database and single files could be easily retrieved, but beyond that, it didn’t provide much value.  And it could, in this administrator’s view, if it had the right reporting capabilities.
“Some students come in with high scores and when they get here, they do poorly and some students that we don’t expect to thrive, truly surprise us,” he said. The administrator wanted to be able to sort applicants by test score and run reports of the most successful students and compare their entrance exam scores and backgrounds. He wanted to find out what was the common the read between the most successful students and incorporate that into the school’s eva luation criteria. He was convinced that information was locked in the database but he couldn’t find the key.

Unfortunately, then my train showed up, so I didn't get to hear more.

Now I’m aware this is a fairly extreme example – a total lack of reporting capability – but it’s a real-life reminder that a little foresight can go a long way when deciding what level of reporting capability your ERP system might need. Sure, you can gather up the wants and needs of today’s users easily enough, but getting a glimpse into what those users might want tomorrow is the challenge. And that doesn’t mean you have to be able to provide futuristic capabilities now, but at least be aware that what your users want today might be different down the road and be ready to make some changes and updates when the time comes. 

And lastly, remember that it's not eavesdropping if it's on a train platform. Is it?

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