Bad, Better, Useful

February 16, 2015 by

What’s better than four flat tires? Two, I suppose. Still pretty tough to drive the vehicle; you need four functional tires for that.

Continuous improvement is good, but you need to ensure iterations have meaningful results. Improving from 0% ability to drive to partial ability still means you are not driving.

Consider the report. Countless times in my two-plus decade’s career, I’ve sat in meetings looking at a piece of paper like this:

Example image of a spreadsheet.

Why are so many of us sitting looking at exhibits like this, trying to derive information or make decisions? Sure, I can look at numbers and see what’s trended up or down, or less or more than it should be, but simple spreadsheet charting tools enable that insight immediately. Consider the example below:

Example image of an IT Metrics graph.

Or this:

Example image of a line graph.

Two things are most certainly true: 1) both of the charts above could have been produced by most first year business majors, and probably a decent chunk of high school students, using spreadsheet tools available for years, and 2) large enterprises are spending sizable sums on business intelligence (BI) tools and moving to nascent or full-blown “big data” capability.

So why are we so often trying to figure out status, project outcomes, “manage what we measure,” using the same report types we used in 1991? And let us also wince at the 20th century processes we’re inflicting on the 21st century workforce and customers (future blog on that topic).

We need to demand better of ourselves and each other when it comes to making improvements.

Now, some colleagues of mine just delivered a dashboard via a mobile BI app. I can see major data in a couple of taps. That’s a leap forward; that’s driving a car with four tires.

Stop just being better. Be useful.



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