I work in an organization that is very metric-driven. During my quarterly meetings, data is king. My employees provide me with reports on their projects, and in turn I analyze their reports to present to the executive team. Each department has it's own "family tree" of reports, and as a team, we look at the data and make decisions.
In any organization, the ability to create an enterprise reporting process is a huge benefit to an organization. But, like anything in this world - too much of a good thing can hurt you. Data is a tricky thing. Too much data or too many data points can muddy up the waters and "overstate" your results. This is where the term "data paralysis" comes into play. "We have so much data that we don't know where to start," or "We cannot create an accurate picture of the data, because everything is all over the place".
Centralizing your reporting system is key to overcoming the data paralysis issue, especially in data intensive areas such as Quality Management and EH&S Management. With all the various processes collecting data, it becomes critical to keep the data in a single environment, in order to draw connections between the various processes. Here's some basic reasons why keeping a centralized reporting system helps:
1. Visibility: Here's a shocker - raw data is practically invisible. My point being that in many cases, there is so much data in a system that it is simply too big to make any sense out of it. Therefore, it is difficult to "see the data" without a reporting system. Centralized reporting helps organizations visualize the data behemoth into a legible and visible format.
2. Multi-Site Influence: If I have 15 sites in my enterprise and I want to see the defect rate on product XYZ across all 15 sites, I don't want to get handed 15 reports and make 15 analyses, and then tell 15 managers 15 different things (or the same thing 15 times). Centralizing my reporting system allows me to roll up the product defect data across those 15 site into one report. That way I make one analysis and make decisions in a more efficient, singular fashion.
3. Uncover New Trends: Much like the multi-site influence, having visibility into other processes allows me to uncover trends I may not otherwise notice in a siloed reporting system. For example, product defects reports in my QMS system might correlate with incident reports in my EH&S system in the same area. From the data, I may conclude that improper employee training is causing line defects and safety incidents. Similarly, I can draw correlations between sites as well. Site A experienced a maintenance defect on their production equipment. Site B has the exact same equipment, but has not had an issue. I may initiate a preventive maintenance at Site B and mitigate my risk of defect because my data is showing it is likely to happen in the future. You get the point.
4. It's just Easier: When I talk to Quality Managers, the one thing they say about reporting is that reports are not always carefully prepared presentations. Often, their boss will come to them and say, "I need a Corrective Action report in 15 minutes to present to the board." This kind of "ad-hoc" reporting is common, and unless you are tapped into the raw data (which we already said is practically invisible), it becomes a nightmare to generate new reports in 15 minutes. The benefit of centralized reporting is that you can have report templates in the system that are already collecting the real time data for you. You just have to run the template, print out the report, and you're the hero of the day.
5. If Reporting is a Compass, then Centralized Reporting is a GPS: Data-driven management is likened to having a compass in the business world. It will give you focus, direction and the wherewith all to make smart, informed decisions. Centralized Reporting, because of it's ability to analyze more data across more areas, is like a GPS. GPS systems use triangulation around three (or more) points to pinpoint your position. Centralized reporting offers more data points from more areas of the business to "triangulate" your business' position better. More focus, better direction, better decisions - Centralized Reporting will get you there.
There are certainly more benefits, and I could go on, but the core message remains the same. The more you centralized and standardize your processes, whether in the form of reports or procedures and so forth, the better you are able to keep control. In our metric-driven meetings, we are able to look at the data, make the decisions that matter most to the company, and take a focused approach to ensuring the success of the company.