Reporting Data off into the Sunset

22 February 2012 Sunset

Over the last couple of posts we’ve been looking at the reporting part of an organisational framework and hopefully you’ll be happy to hear we’re not leaving it behind yet. Conversely, if you’re well and truly sick of it, you’ll be happy to hear that we’ll be moving on across the horizon for the next post!

What we’ve explored so far is what performance reporting metrics are and some rough examples. What we are looking at today – while trying to avoid going into too much detail – is the data requirements that underpin these metrics.

I define ‘performance reporting data’ as that information required to determine whether performance metrics have been met. It may not sound terribly exciting, but without it an organisation doesn’t know whether it can market itself as the top selling company in the country or if it’s about to be illegally operating insolvently. You just can’t operate without some level of data.

Defining this performance reporting data is about taking the performance metrics and breaking them down – I would suggest initially in plain old tables or spreadsheets – to be clear for each of them on what data is required, how often and where it is sourced from.

What is difficult though is then ensuring that there are processes which collect this data according to the requirements – whether they be specific data collection processes or not – and make sure that the various bits of data mesh together to produce a meaningful report. Hmmm… Tricky!

As I’ve said a few times though, processes and procedures are the ultimate form of implementation. If it aint in a process it aint likely to happen or you can’t count on it happening.

If you say, right you all must report annually to a funding body, but don’t have any process to collect the data, too often it will be a mad scramble at the end of the reporting period to bung together some qualitative statements about what happened based purely on memory. I don’t know about you, but so much happens in 12 months that I would never presume to be able to rely on just what I remember!

Anyway, this type of reporting is unreliable (how can the funding body trust it, or how can it quantitatively show everything you’ve achieved or need to work on?), onerous (for the person/s tasked with pulling it all together) and a royal pain in the neck for everyone concerned.

So, how to do it better? Embed it into your day to day processes so that relevant, evidence-based data can be pulled out when required.

Shall we go back to our sweet shop example again and see how that can be done?

Wally Sweetstuff wanted Ultimate Indulgences franchises to:

  • be profitable,
  • have the biggest range of their chosen sweet out of any store in the country, and
  • increase the interest of consumers in exotic gourmet sweets,

and you had come up with a number of metrics to measure this.

For the first goal, you had identified a certain rate of annual profit as the metric. Your accountant reported against this quarterly as part of your business reporting to the tax office, but there was a lot of data that contributed to that. You and your staff enter sales into the cash register and do a reconciliation each day. Receipts for expenses are placed in a box in the office. Then your accountant comes in every Friday to spend half a day paying salaries and bills and recording all the figures into MYOB and sends you a reconciled statement. You are pretty confident you are picking up all the financial data you need on a daily and weekly basis through well entrenched processes and can produce a report on your current profit whenever you want!

For the second goal, you had identified two metics – the number of types of fruit chews you stock and the number of types of fruit chews your key competitors stock. When you first set a benchmark for this metric, you had decided the process itself was so useful that you would do it on a monthly basis, so what processes have you put in place?

Well, it is now your niece and nephew’s job to go respectively into your 2 main competitors shops on a monthly basis and count all the fruit chew types in stock. They also write down any new types spotted and email you the information. Your internal inventory system keeps track of what fruit chews your store has in stock, bases on stock received, and you generate a report on this at the same time your family’s reports are due – on the second Monday of every month – and enter it in a spreadsheet.

(Incidentally, or rather correspondingly, you do the majority of your stock ordering on the following Friday.)

The third goal, had lots of metrics to report against. You have gone through and set up processes for collecting the data, including how often the process is initiated and where the data is stored. You even have a sunset clause for each process where you’ll review the process and make sure it’s still appropriate.

So you now track the percentage of people who know about fruit chews and percentage of people who know how yummy fruit chews are (based on a quarterly random survey of people in your shopping mall), number of people on your newsletter email list, number of mentions there are of fruit chews in the media, number of sales you have, number of requests you get for new products, number of regular customers using your Lolly Lovers loyalty program, and number of ‘Candy Connoisseurs’ party bookings.

Given this reporting is central to the ongoing licence with Wally you have written down all these processes and are comfortable you’ve got it covered… Which means you’re all set for getting someone else to look after the business while you go off into the sunset on a long well-earned holiday!

What do you think?

Can performance reporting be fun? And can you share any examples of performance reporting where the data is not captured in the way it should be?

What do you think?