The Second “R” of Reporting – Research

OK last week I gave you the first “R” of my Seven “R”‘s of reporting – Report. In short, your first step when you take over a project is to just keep the reporting running no matter how backward, confusing, inaccurate, or bizarre it is. Doing that is important for many reasons, not the least of which is you may be terribly wrong that it’s got problems – that crappy, terrible report may actually work.

Face it, as smart as you are (and you do read my writings so I assume you’re smart) you may just be wrong.

But anyway, with the reporting running, we get to the next “R” – Research.

You need to start looking into how the reporting works. You do this of course so you, the Program or Project Manager, really know what’s going on, what’s being done, and what you have to douse that’s on fire. Hopefully it reveals, as previously, that all is marvelous but I’m not going to count on it.

So you need to do your second R, “Research.” Here’s the basics you need to look into:

  • What is the report supposed to do anyway?
  • Where does the data come from and what does it mean?
  • How is it transformed, analyzed, and understood?
  • Who does it go through and to?
  • Why was it included anyway?

If you can name all these things, even abstractly, about your current reporting structure, kudos. You are lucky, talented, or a complete liar. OK, no kudos for the last one.

The reason you do this research is simple, you want to know what all of this actually means. Not what people say it means, what it actually means. If some form is not filled out by calculations but by hand, you know there’s human meaning. If some date is reported but it’s not really what it means (“well it’s live but not tested” is one of my favorites) then you know.

You want to know what all of this information is supposed to tell you and really tells you.

Of course your urge may be “wait now I understand the data and it’s wrong” and go fix it. Nope, not ready yet.

Or it could seem the data is fine. Awesome. But it may still not be right.

See once you have done research and know what it’s all supposed to mean, you have to figure out how it hooks together, and that’s the next R . . .

– Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach.  He blogs on careers at http://www.musehack.com/, nerd and geek culture at http://www.nerdcaliber.com/, and does a site of creative tools at http://www.seventhsanctum.com/. He can be reached at http://www.stevensavage.com/.