The Day an Abominable IT Report Was Born…

15 Dec, 2016

We spend so much time talking about how to do things right that we often don’t take the time out of our busy little schedules to explain what typically goes wrong.  While this is an anecdote, we believe that it does represent one of the most common problems that we run into in the world of business intelligence.

Also, this isn’t meant to be a condescending piece where we definitively declare ourselves to be perfect.  We recognize that we’ve made mistakes in reporting just like everyone else.  The only difference is that we do it all day long within the same set of systems.  Many internal BI teams cover multiple applications which makes data quality more of an issue.  An IT department with over 100 enterprise applications can’t possibly expect to hire 100 BI specialists.  That’s why we believe that the BI application space is the place to be.

And, truth be told, it’s common for reporting in many different disciplines to go wrong for the reasons we’re about to discuss.  So, we’d like to focus on a real-life story (while protecting the names of the guilty… and innocent).

On to the story!  Several months back we were visiting with a customer who was using the packaged analytics product (BO Universe) from one of the major ITSM manufacturers.  Basically, here’s how it went.

Manager:  I’d like a report to show me Incident count for the month, grouped by category… the group that resolved it… the individual that resolved it… and the resolve time (in hours).  And could you sort it to show the highest resolve time at the top for both the group and the individual within the group?

ITSM Administrator/Report Developer: Sure!  No problem, that’s simple.

Report created using Business Objects WEBI in a couple of hours because the calculation is already available out of the box… done.

ITSM Administrator/Report Developer: Here boss.  It’s done.

Manager: Thanks!  This looks great.  That was pretty quick.  You’re my hero again.  Did I ever let you know how much I care about you?  I shall show you in the next performance review by giving you a 2.13% raise which is the maximum for your band (ok, I ad-libbed this part).

Report is used for about 3 months… no worries…

Us:  Doing some other things for the customer… but then out of curiosity… can we have a look at your some of your reports?  We love getting new ideas for our application to stay ahead of the game.

ITSM Admin/Report Developer: Sure man, here’s one… it’s a resolve time report, pretty straightforward.

Us: Ok, let’s see here, can you bring up the measure for Resolution time?  Ok, let’s see here it says… Closed Date/Time – Open Date/Time =… Hey wait a minute.  Shouldn’t this be using the Resolve Date/Time field instead?  Do you have an auto-close workflow set?  Tell me how this thing works…

Rather than go on and on, let me just say this.  Even the simplest resolution time calculation was wrong out of the box from the ITSM software manufacturer.  It’s no big deal because that’s not what they’re in business to create.  But, What if you want to calculate something more complicated such as Average time for 2nd level to respondWho is over there sharpening their Algebra skills on a daily basis to figure that one outCan an IT manager or director inspect every metric for accuracy? Well sure, but it just takes time and expertise in the data model of the underlying application.

In the end, manufacturers of ITSM software don’t spend their time all day long in business intelligence.  And, the BI team for most large companies is focused on core competencies and mission critical applications, but even so, many times one needs to spend all day every day with the application AND discipline.

So, this is simply a plea for recognition of the concept of specialization.  You don’t grow your own corn, you don’t write your own Service Desk application, so why write your own BI application?