Automated dashboards vs room full of Excel data crunchers

One day I was talking to the head of internal audit at one of the world’s leading retail companies. We were walking through the corridor and passed by the internal control department. Inside were rows of about 100 people, busily creating spreadsheets and analysing data.

So I said to the head of internal control… why don’t you automate all of those reports? I mean surely they are coming from the same data sets in SAP each day, right? We could fully automate the reporting and make real-time dashboards out of it.

And he said to me… you know, you are right. But what would we do with those people then? We would have a social crisis on our hands!

And that got me thinking, what if those people could become data analysers instead of data crunchers. What if we could let the computer do the downloading from SAP, the analysing and the presentation. Then the staff in that room would be able to step back from their laptops and look at those numbers, maybe make some calls to the warehouses, the stores, the management, try to find out what is going wrong, try to spend more time discussing the solutions to the problems rather than just preparing the reports.

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