Whose data is this anyway?

You may think as you prepare your spreadsheets and reports that you are doing a fantastic job: : .we all do: .8-)

Sit back though and imagine a scenario where the data is being viewed by someone that has never seen it before: :

I have seen confusion in manufacturing schedules where the product is grouped by equipment type, instead of manufacturing start/required finish dates where the only thing needed was to data sort the sheet by date and not equipment type.

I have heard explanations by the authors which generally take the form of something like “It’s obvious: if you just take a look at cell Z123 that’s exactly what I was asking for”

Same with reports: raw data with no summary anywhere to be seen.

Step back and think about that: a scenario where your spreadsheet or report is being viewed by someone who has no prior experience of the project or the history of events.

This can take a number of forms. In the case of a spreadsheet, maybe have a number of tabs one by product: with another sheet by delivery start date in the case of a manufacturing schedule. It could include several tabs for the historic revisions as long as this is clearly identified to avoid a third party working from the  wrong tab: and yes I have seen that happen too. An instruction sheet on the front of the spreadsheet will help in the case of interactive tabs along with a history revision sheet.

On reports a summary sheet or paragraph will help third parties to understand the history so that they can understand quickly the current project status.

Another thing: when sending out spreadsheets to vendors as email attachments on interactive sheets like schedules: make sure that you do a copy: paste special on formats and data for interactive spreadsheets. Otherwise the spreadsheets will lose all of their reference cells and your goods may end up turning up in 2012: : : ..

My point is that we all tend to think of these things as our data: it is actually information in a form that outlines the tactical stepping stones of a corporate strategic plan that is designed to make the company successful.

The data belongs to the company: Lets make sure that we remember that when we create them: step back and imagine that you are looking at the document for the first time . There is enough chaos in the World: lets make sure that we do not inadvertently add to it!

John Burke




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