Managing information

We talked last time about managing all the information that you gather. We discussed how it needs to be organized the way you want to use it. Don’t just blindly follow the template the software people gave you. What do they know about your business?

You would have thought that most companies were pretty much the same. I have had experience recently with a software package that an organization had thought seemed perfect for them. They didn’t need much from it. When they got it I watched three highly educated young people poking at it for days. I watched them try to fathom the manual. I watched them discover that there are a whole lot of people out there making money from providing seminars in how this package works. Seminars for an address book!!

There is a tendency for software to do much more than anyone really needs, and then it gets too complicated and people can’t use it. If you decide clearly what functionality you need and what you want to do with the information you can be better informed when you choose how to manage it and it will be a whole lot easier than if you are just poking around.

I knew a film editing firm that had spent years designing a custom application that recorded every little time and cost detail of complex jobs. Well of course it didn’t record it itself, it had to have a lot of data input by a lot of people: how many hours of each person and each workstation went into every job and so on. You could analyze a job by person, by job function by anything your heart desired. It was wonderful. It would have made General Motors proud. At the end of every job the owner got a multi-page report with all the details in serried gray columns. But for a small business it was all much too much to deal with: much too much information. And when he was handed each report it came with three figures written on the top in pencil. Those figures were all he read and that was all he really wanted to know. Of course I can make the argument that knowledge is power. But limit your reporting to useable and useful information. For many companies that will mean cutting the number of reports in half. Know what you need and control the time people spend having to input data and create reports. Then you will increase your capacity to to understand it and profit from it. And you will have saved time and money by simplifying the process.