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November 28, 2015

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Time is Money

November 28, 2015

Monthly reports. Ugh.


Every month, people scramble to meet reporting deadlines, cobbling together numbers, cutting and pasting from emails into spreadsheets or documents. It takes hours, days and, for some, weeks. Too many companies don't appreciate that they're paying a pretty penny for these reports.


If a report takes a day to prepare, the cost for that report is the hours in the day multiplied by the hourly wage of the person preparing the report. And if six people across six divisions are all scrambling to respectively cobble together their part of that roll-up report, that number is then multiplied by six. Every month, twelve times per year. Depending on a company's standard day, that annual cost can exceed $100,000. Every year.


Keep in mind also, that, during the time people are cobbling together these reports, they are not being productive otherwise. Not only is this way of reporting a money-sink, it's a time-sink, a productivity killer, a profit killer.


What if a company could reduce the time required to prepare a monthly report to ten minutes instead of a day? And the people who are no longer taking all day to prepare a report can get back to more productive work that helps your company supports its brand promise to your clients and customers, and your obligation to shareholders?


Take a look at this actual report* we set up:


It previously took a good week to cobble together by an administrator chasing senior team heads to update their respective spreadsheets so she in turn could copy and paste all the data into this for the team leaders. 


Let's say this another way - this report consumed 25% of the administrator time each month, which added up to three months out of each year. Divide her salary by four, and you now have the minimum cost that the company paid to prepare these reports for the year, not including the lost productivity costs.


Now, let's break down what we did to make this happen much, much faster...


 A. Each row represents the data from one discipline team, and they all have their own spreadsheets for tracking their data. 


B. The administrator would open each spreadsheet and copy and paste data into the respective rows/columns.


This information was updated once, monthly - which is to say, management only could see what was happening once each month.


We set up this report to pull data from the respective source spreadsheets automatically, in real time, achieving two significant advances for the company:


1. The same information that previously took a week to prepare was now instantly up-to-date, dropping the cost for the report down to $0 - and that administrator could stay productive for a full month. 


2. But, more than this, management could now see what was happening across the organization any time they wanted to, in real-time. This up-to-the-minute insight empowered the company to more quickly respond to issues, helping them mitigate their risk much more quickly.


C. Leaders could select whatever month they wished to review and see the data for that month without having to open a gazillion separate spreadsheets or PDFs


D. And, quickly, clicking on the triangular up button returned the report to the "current view", showing the numbers for the current month.


And, if leaders ever had to drill down for more details in any of the source documents, they could simply click on the department name and open up the report to take a closer look.


The cost to develop a data ecosystem is better understood as an investment that pays exponential returns - this particular tool didn't even require extensive programming, running entirely on Excel functions and formulas.


This scenario is rampant status quo in too many companies that just accept the overhead when it is possible to cut time/cost on these reports.


In another department of this same company, a report that would take two weeks to prepare was only updated every six months months (yes, you read that correctly) because the company couldn't afford to have the administrator burn a half a month too frequently.


We applied a somewhat similar approach and, with some additional tools and VBA programming, empowered the administrator to produce the report in minutes and positioning the company to not have to wait six months to know what's happening, rather gaining operational insights on demand.


If you suspect some informational process is taking longer than it should, talk to us. We can help.


 * To protect the confidentiality of our client, titles that could be used to identify their information has been blurred out.


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