The Art and the Science of IT Reporting
Phil Jarvis, Principle, Stonebridge BSM Transformation
Monday, September 17, 2012
How many times have you been asked to provide a report or commentary on how IT is actually helping the business (and not just IT)? You know the type of report I mean, that elusive report that actually demonstrates how specific IT availability was directly responsible for, say, the increase in web-related sales. Or that the improved IT performance meant a higher number of transactions or orders were fulfilled, which in turn brought payments from clients in quicker. And that all these things in turn were the biggest factor in the company’s share price going up?
Okay, maybe these scenarios are a bit too presumptuous. But it’s the lack of demonstrable measurement that keeps most IT departments from being seen as anything other than a cost center.
Reporting is both an art and a science. The science is in working out how information chains connect at the micro level and can be cascaded up to deliver through various interconnecting layers, with each layer corresponding to, and delivering to, each layer of the organization’s management structure.
Quite often these layers will intersect and feed each other. The information flows can therefore act like a river, with tributaries branching out and feeding into other rivers. The ”science” also ensures that, like all rivers, a single source is identified from which the information river is originally fed. The science can therefore tell us the mechanics of how the information river came to be and measures the level and rate it is flowing at.
The ”art” of reporting is in interpreting what the river levels and flow tells us about the health of the environment (business), where the river (market) is likely to flow next when compared to other rivers, and if we need to take any corrective action, what should it be and at which layer?
Before we spend our time, effort and money in building a reporting industry within our IT organization, we stop and take a minute to play a game of Pooh Sticks* and see where the river is flowing first.
* Per Wikipedia, Pooh Sticks is a game first mentioned in A.A. Milne’s book The House at Pooh Corner. The game may be played on any bridge over running water; each player drops a stick on the upstream side of a bridge and the one whose stick first appears on the downstream side is the winner.