How to create a winning strategy for Operations reporting


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Measuring the performance of specific strategies and tactics employed within any organization is essential to understanding the efficiency and effectiveness of internal processes. But creating a reporting strategy on Operational tasks and processes can be tricky as each organization is unique. The market conditions they face, the competitive landscape, their access to resources, and even their own mission is unique.  

Therefore, trying to create an umbrella framework for reporting on Operations would be extremely counterproductive as a metric which will be truly reflective of objectives for one organization may seem completely pointless to another.

With that in mind, this post will outline how to create a winning strategy for reporting on Operations, rather than a framework itself. While we won’t recommend specific metrics, we hope that this post will guide you through the steps you can take to make your own reporting on Operations as successful as possible.

The 5 subprocesses for success

To create a winning strategy for Operations reporting, make sure you address each of the key subprocesses: Define, Collaborate, Obtain, Simplify, Explain (DCOSE).

1. Define

In today’s digital world, we all have huge numbers of data sources at our disposal. These, in turn, provide numerous metrics. You might find yourself tempted into reporting on every single metric at your disposal, but beware: in doing so you could end up with a dashboard comprised of many elements that individually, and as a whole, don’t bring any real value.

That’s why before starting up we need to define 3 fundamental aspects:

  • Areas or departments: Which areas and/or departments are relevant to us and therefore should be included in our report?
  • Objectives: What are the principal objectives of each area/department? Documenting and sharing objectives with other teams will help everyone to better communicate and manage interdependencies and respect cross-departmental priorities.
  • Metrics: Which business metrics actively reflect the objectives of each area/business unit and allow us to measure progress towards them?

2. Collaborate

Operations teams typically cross-manage many departments in a company. Not only does this necessitate that these teams cover a large number of different areas, but also that they are highly involved in processes related to each of them. In order to successfully report on the efficiency of these different areas, as well as help them to achieve results, it’s highly useful to work with the team leader or manager. Not only can this individual provide essential insight into key objectives, but they can also provide you with the data you need to report on their team’s performance in an ongoing manner.

In order to get this person on board and invested in the process of improving their team’s outcomes, we must be able to effectively convey the purpose of the project and the importance of their input. Only once they are able to appreciate the meaning and value of such a project will we be able to enlist their help in aligning objectives.

3. Collect

More often than not, during the definition phase, we will come to realize that we are not obtaining all the data we need to answer our key questions. It’s, therefore, important to work together with each team leader or third parties to get the necessary mechanisms in place to begin collecting data.

There are a few key points that are important to bear in mind:

  • This collection task simply cannot be time-consuming, as where it is, maintenance becomes an overwhelming task. Ideally, it should be automated to avoid forcing users to work across multiple platforms and formats.
  • Equally Important is to try to avoid any human or manual input. This is likely to become a potential source of errors in your data.
  • It’s important to run a Quality Assurance process to ensure that your data is accurate, trustworthy and is pertaining to the correct source. This QA is even more important when automation is not a possibility.

Once we are certain that we are able to obtain the metrics we need and that they are accurate, we can go forward to the next step. It’s extremely important that we are sure about the credibility of the data collected because actions taken in future will depend on it, as will willingness of stakeholders to consult and trust in it. Please, make sure you spend sufficient time on this subprocess as it has the potential to save you vast amounts of time in the future as well as define the success or failure of the project.

4. Simplify

In reporting, less is almost always more. It’s essential that we provide an overview of the status of each department through a few well-composed, concise, and reflective KPIs. It may seem like a difficult task to avoid burdening operations reports with many metrics where so many processes and areas need to be reported on, but the creation of few truly unique and representative compound metrics can be highly informative when developed around the objectives prescribed in the Define subprocess.

We have to remember that the ultimate goal of reporting tool is to summarize the state of the assets we are measuring against the objective we have for them. In the case where we are asked to provide answers to questions that arise when consuming such data, it’s often words and not additional visualizations that can tell the clearest story.

5. Explain

Building on from ‘Simplify’, while strong metrics can provide us with a good understanding of performance at a given time, it’s unlikely that alone they’ll be able to tell the true story of what is happening without the accompaniment of additional contextual information or even textual insights gained through further analysis.

To ensure that the elements we report on make sense, or that we are able to understand what the numbers are really saying, we may wish to provide context through:

  • Historical performance values: compare your current performance to past performance to understand how well you are performing now.
  • Goals: compare your current performance to your goal to check if you are on track to achieving it.
  • Predictive Modeling: based on your historical performance, is your projected future performance as expected? If not, it’s time to start making some changes to correct your future path.
  • Competitive Intelligence: compare your current performance to your competitors, or even other products/services/brands/departments/areas internally to benchmark your results.
  • Descriptions: where your colleagues have a different knowledge set, sharing your own insights can bring great value. For example, a business stakeholder might have strong knowledge of the market and internal objectives and be able to ask strong guiding questions, while an analyst might have the expertise needed to work within an analysis environment to deduce a pattern and answer these. Collective Intelligence can provide great contextual value where teams are able to successfully collaborate.

Where we don’t successfully address each of the subprocesses listed above, it’s highly likely that we will end up with an ineffective report: both in design and content.

In addition, it’s useful to approach this process knowing that it will be iterative. Not only is it likely that multiple ‘drafts’ of your report will be required, but each subprocess will also need to be continually addressed as external and internal circumstances change.

Accept this constant state of change and don’t despair. Take each iteration as it comes and continue to make minor modifications in order to work towards an operational report that will not only give a picture of team performance but encourage continual improvement.

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Alfredo Mezquita

Managing Director at Sweetspot. Bachelor in Software Engineering and new technologies enthusiast. I love sports, travelling and cooking.

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