Management By Spreadsheet?

I’m working as a consultant in a small team dealing with the upgrade of the banks complaints handling system, the data migration between the old and new systems and the management reporting.. 

It was meant to be operational last summer and not only is it late but it is also way over budget, 

I’ve been here a month, my goal is to create a Plan B, that at least allows them to switch the new system on without creating all the new reports from Business Objects, but instead create extracts from the new system to match the inputs of the old reporting system and use these as an interim solution. 

Business Objects is a decent tool if it’s used correctly, but it’s often sold with the promise that anyone can create reports and it can be passed to non-technical business users to create any reports they need just by dragging and dropping. 

But that’s a lie .. or at least an fallacy created by salesmen so that they can sell high-value tools to management who like the idea of not relying on expensive technical staff. 

It’s a lie because, in my experience and in my current role, what is delivered to the end-user is a view of all their business attributes grouped into classes, but not necessarily with the intelligence and rules 

In typical IT fashion Business Objects call this view “the universe” .. ie everything that they user can see or is interested in.   

Personally I think calling it a “universe” is bond arrogance, there then ensues conversations about “changing the universe” … aye right .. plonkers! 

The main problem in my experience is that the “universe” which provides a layer between the end-users and the technical infrastructure is not fit for purpose.   

That is exactly the case here, the end-users have been given some basic training and left to create the reports, which behind the scenes generate all sorts of complicated database queries where not enough thought or effort has been put into the design of the universe, its objects, data tables and relationships. 

In this particular case, what has been delivered by an major external consultancy, is a collection of tables and relationships, but with absolutely no intelligence. 

What they have delivered Could have been created with the universe designer tool by simply selecting the database tables of interest and dragging them into the designer. 
As a consequence of this, the end users are expected to add all of the intelligence in the reporting tool which is an extremely cumbersome task for the complex reports required. 

It’s a complete joke. 

Meanwhile in my small team, we have a project manager, a senior project manager, an operational manager, an operational team leader and 6 business users who are expected to create the reports but don’t have the necessary skills. 

The managers all have regular meetings and compare notes on the spreadsheets that they have of defects and comparisons between the old and the new reports.

Every Wednesday they have a meeting with even more senior management to discuss progress. 

Every Tuesday they come round looking for updates so they can massage the figures to make sure it looks like progress is being made. 

These people are non-technical and incapable of adding any real value, they only chase defects and expect updates. 

There is progress, I will make this work with my Plan B, but they can’t even keep the spreadsheets up to date. 

I’ve just been into a meeting where one manager was trying to do the other to express their point of view. 

It’s a complete joke. 

But heres the bottom-line … 
 … The consultancy that delivered this nonsense are on a high retainer to get it in and keep it working .. but it doesn’t and they aren’t fixing it, no-one is managing their deliverables. 

… The other consultancy I work for are charging a fortune for me to come in and create a “parallel universe” as an interim solution, which will become the final solution as that will have the intelligence needed for the final reports.. 

Personally, I make good bucks out of this and I’m back working in Glasgow and home in 20 minutes. 

Sometimes you have to shut up and go with the flow .. 

But do you ever wonder how banks survive when they can’t manage relatively small projects like this? 

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