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The Hidden Cost of People Time

Every business has challenges developing business cases for projects, and those involving Business Intelligence are no different.

Most companies have adopted a simple 'plan on a page' framework for small projects, through to more sophisticated templates for larger or more complex solutions. Each will walk through the basics of identifying key benefits, associated costs, potential vendors, required internal resources and ROI for the business. It’s the latter that can be difficult to unpick, especially when it comes to identifying the time costs of people.

Business Intelligence automates information delivery, so when we discuss what our client needs, this is the arena we are working in. Automating information delivery often means we are looking at replacing and / or automating people-based processes. Trying to understand the timeliness of how quickly someone puts a report together is not easy. It is also not contained to one persons effort or salary. (Please refer to above diagram).

Its all the work that one person can generate for people in the wider business

McKinsey identified in 2012 that knowledge workers spend a whopping 35% of their time finding information and 20% tracking down their colleagues for validation and feedback. That was a number of years ago and I'd argue that although the technology may have changed, many business find themselves still doing the same thing but in a more complex way.

Our team did a straw poll. On the lighter end of the scale we see examples of a simple business reports taking an average of 2 hours to initially create / collate information ready for commentary or review. With the report going out to an average of five other business managers to request information (1x5 hours), get feedback and rework (factor in circa 3 more hours), we estimate that a simple report could take on average 10+ hours to complete. Now multiple that by all the reports you do, all the report your colleagues do and frequency they are run. On top of the lost productivity, add in opportunity costs, and the financials of salaries involved... it adds up!

As a thought experiment (or bring on the cold hard data, either is fine) - and based on your own experience and business processes, ask yourself:

What is the effort you spend each day or week trying to reign in data or information from the wider business?
Get validation from colleagues?
Rework and sense-check the data?

Whatever the true cost is for report development, the actual challenge to businesses facing ongoing competition and disruption is - what is acceptable? Businesses have the ongoing issue of understanding their strategic direction but making ongoing tactical decision daily. So when does it go from 'o.k. we'll cope' to a compelling and essential need to change and automate?

The answer is that it really depends on the priorities of the business, resource capability and availability, investment into architecture, governance, maturity of the business... the list is endless. However, with automation readily advancing as converging technologies rapidly impact our competitive landscape, weeding out areas of lost productivity and realising actionable insights could not be more important.

To find out how we can help you reduce the time you spend on reports & finding information - get in touch, we'd love to talk.

This post was first published in June 2017

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