No doubt many readers of this blog will agree with me, when I say most application software is pretty poor, when it comes to reporting. This is very much the case with Housing Management systems, where as a norm, few standard reports are provided out of the box and if they are, they are generally dull and simplistic.
At a special user group session just the other week in Solihull, I chewed the fat with some of the developers of one HMS’s reporting solution and also a lot of the wide variety of attendees, who are tasked with getting reports out from their systems, or facilitating it. Overall it was a positive experience.
So firstly, why is standard reporting so poor from our suppliers?
The stock answer from your supplier (or prospect if you are out in the market for a new system), is that ‘Our solutions are too flexible’. What!, I hear you scream.
Well, they do have a point I have got to concede. We do take systems and then set them up in a non-standard way, because we believe ourselves to be, well, ‘special’. So we don’t put data in the right places it was intended to go into, we might use ‘Scheme’ as ‘Needs Category’ or ‘Area’ as ‘Archetype’, rendering most of the standard reports supplied, less useful. Maybe at implementation, the implementers should be informing us of this upfront and doing more to influence those early decisions. Use of a best practice implementation can be of great benefit, where integrated modules can be configured as originally intended.
While the above is a defence, there is rarely enough standard reports, and they are rarely designed to allow quick addition of new data related to key entities, or are silo-ed in a single module. I.E. a Repairs WO report might have difficulty easily showing the household size or age of the oldest occupant.
So, customers need to resign themselves to re-inventing much of the wheel and writing their own reports. This can be frustrating, character-building or an enlightening process, depending on how its tackled.
If you are an end user (or if you aren’t, pop yourself in their loafers or kitten heels for a mo), what do you see in the reports & KPIs that are provided. Is it a limited list of essential colour coded KPI’s (RAG), with simple drilldowns to locate problems? Most users are unfortunately wading through rows of data, rather than seeing clear information.
The example below from Solihull, a lot the work of Nick Halfpenny, who has put some awesome ideas into practice, shows how clean KPI’s could be.
When data is processed into information we see real benefits from our data. Just giving us data (probably in rows), leaves us lost in the forest, not managing to see wood for the trees.
Related Post: Flowcharts, does anyone manage to do this properly??
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(c) Tony Smith, Acutance Consulting www.acutanceconsulting.co.uk 07854-655009
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