New King for the Information Age -- DickesonJune 2001
Why didn't that Digital Fancies printout provide all that marketing analysis as report information initially? The format of the report was a legacy from BC (before computers.) It originated long before we could sort, group, filter and compute the raw data into analytic structures. We all became so entranced by the "functionality" of computers and systems that we forgot the management information objective.
One of my friends is a software system designer for another industry. I asked him if he was designing systems that presented data listings rather than knowledge. "Yes," he responded. "The management of a company is willing to spend what it takes to get the data, but not willing to spend the additional amount needed to convert it to information—a form of knowledge that evokes corrective action."
Charles Wang, president of Computer Associates, believes that we are wasting a trillion dollars each year to provide computer information we don't or cannot use. My account summary example is a case in point. But it is just one small example.
Our primary hang-up has always been pricing. For pricing and managerial systems we had developed the Job Cost Accounting System in the 1920s. When computers came along in the '70s, we simply imported the job cost model into microprocessors.
Slowly, we've become aware that we were still getting financial reports in the same amount of time as BC and that the job cost statistical method has the same weaknesses in a computer that it had in calculators and comptometers. So we treat our job costing like a kindly, but wacky, uncle. We're polite, but we mostly ignore him because he doesn't make sense.
At least we can use the job cost databases we presently have to relate jobs to each other. We can get some idea of how customer accounts and sales reps rank, and what products produce better bottom-line results. We can develop some marketing strategies such as gradually increasing prices on the accounts in the lowest quarter of the rankings. Sales reps needing help, training or shifted responsibilities are identified by their ranking. Equipment to bolster the core competence products can be acquired with confidence.
These things can be done by developing report formats from the data we have. Insist that your package software must have formats that provide decision support information. Ask if your system has files that can be accessed by report writers such as Crystal Reports from Seagate, or Microsoft Excel. If so, then develop a library of your own reports using the talents of people already on the payroll. Or look around for some outside contract help for report writing.
We've matured. Functionality of computer systems is no longer king. Report content is the new king in this Age of Information.
—Roger V. Dickeson
About the Author
Roger Dickeson is a printing productivity consultant based in Tucson, AZ. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, by fax (520)903-2295, or on the Web at http://www.prem-associates.com.