April 2013

Trash Can

Management Information: Lifeblood or waste paper?

Trash CanInformation is often said to be the lifeblood of organisations.  Certainly, timely access to appropriate reports and Management Information (often traditionally referred to as “MI”) helps managers and stakeholders at all levels in the organisation to understand trends and make decisions.  However, how much MI is too much?


I remember, early in my career, working for a Financial Services organisation that relied on regular reporting from its mainframe system.  Every night, the mainframe would spew out pages and pages of reports and lists of data on continuous tractor-feed paper – each with a header page showing who the report was for.  The mail-room would collate and sort these reports, and within a few hours the report would be directed to the relevant person.  At least that was the theory…

Broken printers and the importance of end-to-end processes…

A maze with a blue arrow exitingI remember in the dim and distant past, technical commentators painting a euphoric picture of how offices would work in the 2000s – paper would be obsolete, and information would be passed around electronically.  Well, I know I certainly use less paper now than I did even 10 years ago, but I still rely heavily on a trusty laser printer in my home-office.  As much as I try to read documents on my PC or tablet, sometimes it’s just far more convenient to print them out.  I was therefore rather unsettled when my printer started to make worrying whirring and clunking sounds a couple of weeks ago and eventually ceased working completely, accompanied by several warning lights flashing and a slight smell of electrical solder.  Of course, this happened immediately before I was due to meet a client – a true case of “Murphy’s law”!


Having searched for the printer receipt, I noticed that it was less than a year old and still under warranty. “Fantastic”, I thought, and I rang the manufacturer’s warranty helpline.  A rather long phone-call ensued… I’m sure we’ve all experienced these types of phone call when trying to deal with some organisations.  Whilst the phone call ended in a good outcome, it reminded me of the importance of understanding business processes from end-to-end, and the pitfalls that can happen when organisations compartmentalise their processes and focus on silos.  Here’s a summary of what happened: