As unpleasant as change can be in an organization, a lack of change is potentially more unpleasant. Some might even consider change a four letter word. After all, it is one of the most challenging issues that we face in life, much less in the workplace. It’s no different when the workplace is an institution of higher education and the potential change centers on its reporting solution.
Is it time to change enterprise reporting solutions? At first glance, the question seems quite simple. Most might be tempted to answer quickly with “no,” while others will just as quickly reply with “yes.” Let’s take a moment to ponder some of the reasons why change could be necessary.
A change is likely needed if the current solution:
- has reached the end of its useful life
- lacks the functionality needed to produce useful information in a timely manner
- has a high cost of ownership
- relies heavily on a handful of key staff
- is used to create spreadsheets so that people can do their jobs
Now, let’s take a closer look at each of these reasons…
The Current Solution Has Reached the End of its Useful Life
There are multiple reasons why a reporting solution may no longer be useful. The most obvious is that the vendor who licenses the solution has recognized that it is no longer practical to keep the tool current, supported, and on the market. In this day and age, this could be the result of yet another merger and/or acquisition in which the surviving vendor has more than one solution to support. In this scenario, the vendor is actually driving the change.
Another possibility is that the organization – in this case, an institution or department – has outgrown its current solution. The solution may have met the organization’s needs quite nicely when it was implemented, but times have changed. Perhaps the organization has altered or expanded its mission and values, faces increased competition, or has grown exponentially over time. Some easy-to-implement and simple solutions are fine when the burden placed on them is slight, but when demands are heavier, they fail to perform. While the solution may still be viable in the market, it is no longer useful as a tool to meet the organization’s reporting needs.
The Current Solution Lacks the Functionality Needed to Produce Useful Information in a Timely Manner
The two major components associated with this reason for change is that the information must be useful and it must be timely.
Providing information in a timely manner can be difficult when the reporting solution is slow, difficult to use or navigate, or just lacks the functionality or flexibility to produce results. Facing this dilemma often brings other reasons for change into play, such as reliance on a few key staff members and the creation of numerous spreadsheets.
The current solution might be providing information, and it might even be somewhat timely, but is it useful? This is often a challenge when satisfying the needs of institutional leadership, as the information provided needs to be robust enough to support decision making. In many cases, leadership requires interactive access to the information in a way that allows them to start at a high level and drill down to the details as more questions arise. Providing a one-foot-high stack of reports to wade through is not a viable solution – interactive dashboards and OLAP capabilities are required.
The Current Solution Has a High Cost of Ownership
As with the aforementioned reasons, this one has many facets as well. A high cost of ownership can come from multiple sources. The most likely ones are high licensing, maintenance, or support/service fees. However, there are other circumstances that could lead to a high cost of ownership, such as the requirement for a unique and hard-to-find skillset in order to effectively leverage the reporting solution for the organization. Potential employees with these skills may require higher salaries than the organization can afford, may not be readily available, or may not be willing to relocate.
The Current Solution Relies Heavily on a Handful of Key Staff
Many institutions find themselves heavily reliant on a small cadre of gurus who hold the secrets to using the reporting solution to produce results. This “handful” could even be one person, which is the worst case scenario. Whether this is intentional or not, it is a dangerous scenario for an institution needing to mine its data for useful information.
In some instances, this group of experts possesses knowledge that is as old as the solution itself (whereas the emerging talent pool only knows the solution by name because it was mentioned in an Ancient History of IT course). In a less palatable scenario, they have taken the technology hostage and hold on to it tightly. Regardless of the reason, it is unhealthy for the organization.
The Current Solution is Used to Create Spreadsheets So That People Can Do Their Jobs
This situation is a red flag for the organization! If the current reporting solution cannot produce information in a format that is useful without further manipulation, then time and resources are wasted. Ultimately, the organization is not reaping the return on its investment in the reporting solution. Also, the organization can no longer say that the data source reported is its single source of the truth, as the truth now comes from a spreadsheet – or more likely, several spreadsheets, which do not yield the same results.
So… Is it Time for a Change?
If an institution or department finds itself in one or more of these situations, it is most likely time to change enterprise reporting solutions. Making the decision to do so might well be the easy part – after all, it will require organizational change. Once the decision is made, it is important for the organization to commit the proper time, training, and resources to ensure the success of the new solution!
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