Companies produce tons of internal reports, hire new teams to satisfy additional information needs by management. Costs are usually material but value is often limited. Therefore, companies need to regularly review their inventory of reports. Since surveys or interviews will not help, we propose a more aggressive approach.
The traditional way: The inventory and the interview
Most companies would not have a one-glance list of reports which summaries the content, the frequency and the internal target audience. While this is a first step, it will not help to answer the key question: Who actually needs the figures for which purpose?
This is why teams usually start to reach out to the target audience by survey or interview to figure that out. But I assume you know the answer: No-one from management will tell you that certain information or even the whole report could be decommissioned. You will not receive the information that allows to enhance the report and make the production process more efficient. Nearly all our experience will tell you: Things will continue as before in terms of frequency, effort and audience - also after the survey.
If you want to go this route, you are better off by not even kicking off this exercise. But we have a better approach.
The alternative: Be radical.
Instead of the traditional way, we propose the following: Continue to produce the reports as usual but start to record the effort associated with the production process. This includes preparation, lay outing, validation, quality-assurance - but do NOT send-out the report anymore. Stop overnight and hold it back. Wait. Wait for the response of the target audience and whether they approach you asking for the report. In any case be ready: That they don't ask - or that they loudly complain. If the first one: be happy - you saved the company money. If the latter one, take the opportunity to discuss:
Outline why you did not deliver the report as usual - explain the experiment and its purpose: Efficiency in reporting by focusing on what is really relevant for management.
Explain the effort associated with creating the report: Management needs to be aware that a report is not for free. People could use the time differently, e.g. by analysing the information instead of just producing additional reports.
Ask for the information that is key to the person and understand the reason for it. You may be able to propose a shorter version or a version with additional information to better satisfy the needs.
It will be tough, in particular when the telephone rings and people complain about not getting the report on time. But be prepared and agree on the approach with your line manager or management before. You may need to repeat this exercise over time - but always keep in mind: this is for the purpose of being more efficient and focusing on the relevant deliveries. This is part of your job - have a look into your job description if you are in doubt.
Depending on the numbers of reports, you can expect a lower effort of 10 to 25% on a net basis. In addition, you will receive valuable feedback from the target group on what content really matters - this may compensate some effort savings.
You want to learn more about this approach? Drop me a note on email@example.com or call me.