In my previous post I reflected a bit on how Clearview has really built our engine correctly from the ground up in an elegant fashion that allows us to run fast and play well in a modern world. What does that mean? Let me give you a few examples that may bring that point home:

 

 


 

We're excited to announce InFocus 2015. With over 200 new features, fixes and refinements, it's a big release. Almost everything we’ve done is in response to a client survey given a few months ago. In particular, clients told us they needed easier reporting, faster loading in key areas and a more cohesive user experience. InFocus 2015 delivers that and a lot more.

 


 

If a picture is worth 1,000 words, a chart is worth 1,000 numbers.

Years ago I was a consultant in the transit industry doing a maintenance study for NJ Transit.  They had about 11 maintenance garages, and we were comparing several metrics amongst the garages.  One metric is Miles Between In-service Failures.  Believe it or not, this number is surprisingly low in the transit industry, as I recall something like 11,000 miles.  That was about what most of the garages were reporting, but one garage was reporting 42,000 miles.

Either the manager of that garage was fudging his numbers or he didn’t know the definition of “In-service Failures” or he should have been in charge of the maintenance for all of NJ.  What struck me at the time was that we were getting the numbers from all of their standard reports, but no one noticed this garage until we put the numbers in a bar chart. 

 


 

The best way to get good decisions out of people is to give them timely, accurate information that answers their questions. This gives them both the motivation to act and the resources on which to act.

Historically, however, this was not done. Throughout the accounting cycle—usually a calendar month, but sometimes a calendar quarter—operating data was collected that was primarily of interest to the accounting department, mostly numbers preceded by dollar signs.

At the end of this period, after another period called the closing process, reports were printed out, usually defined by what an accounting system could generate.

Much of this information was considered confidential, so it was distributed to the principles of the firm, to the CPA, and maybe to the bank or lending institution that may have provided a line of credit.

Professional service firms like architects and engineers came to realize that there was also important project-oriented data that could be collected, but it tended at first to be collected and compiled on the same cycle, by the same people, printed and distributed to operations personnel, including project managers.

The problem with this cycle is that it provided data that was between one week and six weeks old, in a defined format that may or may not have met PMs needs, and all too often of questionable accuracy. Depending on the PMs workload and the level of detail, these paper reports could have been overwhelmingly voluminous, making it difficult for the PM to find the critical information he needed, and usually long after it would have been helpful.

In many engineering firms several projects could have completely come and gone in this reporting cycle.

Most of today’s professional service reporting systems are capable of much more than what the old system provided, but the old patterns are still followed: print a lot of reports, usually around the billing cycle and distribute them with more emphasis on billing than on control.

Stop It!

Let me propose four changes that will greatly empower PMs to make more timely and accurate decisions.