Quality . . .

How Can I Manage My Suppliers and Delight My Users?

It's the role of an organisation's leadership team to understand how Enterprise Reporting contributes to the value of the firm. As we've seen, they are acting on behalf of owners (or stakeholders), who expect their investment to be managed in their interests. The next level is those managers responsible for implementing the Enterprise Reporting environment, and their focus is on quality.

Adoption, Usage and Success

Understanding, defining and measuring the quality of the entire Enterprise Reporting function is a very difficult undertaking. The primary difficulty is getting agreement from the various parties as to what "quality" means. The second difficulty is determining whether Enterprise Reporting is a product or a service. The best tactic is to get a handle on these different perspectives, so that arguments can be couched in terms that relate to each stakeholder's view.

First of all, let's introduce a model of how quality and value interact in an Enterprise Reporting system. (Here, we use system in the broadest possible sense, spanning platforms, processes and people.) The following diagram encapsulates a well-known and widely-deployed model, known as the Delone and Maclean Information Systems Success Model:

IS Success Model

In a nutshell, quality is conceived as having two parts: information quality (content) and system quality (delivery). Quality has a bearing on impact (value-creation) through usage, which in turn is limited by user satisfaction. Now, the key determinant here is discretion: to what extent are users actually opting to use the Enterprise Reporting system? This is the crucial but often unasked question in most organisations.

Users of some Enterprise Systems enjoy very little discretion, for example people working in call centres simply have to use the contact management or CRM systems they're given. Similarly for people processing invoices and the like through ERP systems. Reporting, though, is quite different in that it is typically highly discretionary. Let's look at some of the obstacles to using the designated system.

Obstacles to Success

  • Ignorance - Users are simply not aware of the reporting system, the reports or information it contains, or that they are meant to be accessing reports.
  • Apathy - Users are aware of the reporting system, but choose to not access the reports. They believe any benefits they derive from doing so will not offset the costs. This belief might not be explicit, and might not be true.
  • Delegation - Users may rely on others to monitor their reports for them, and notify them if anything important or interesting crops up.
  • Substitution - Users are consuming reports, but from another source - typically the old reporting system that was meant to be decommissioned, or perhaps an underground "skunkworks" system comprising a mishmash of spreadsheets, desktop databases and emails.

The astute reader might have noticed that these obstacles constitute a ladder - problems at the top of the list are potentially easier to diagnose and solve, while the ones at the bottom become more intractable. Typically, users might be at the different levels for different aspects of the reporting system. An important part of the quality function is to assess users' position on this obstacle ladder, and implement strategies to migrate them off it and into getting the most out of Enterprise Reporting.