Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Why does it take so long to do something so "simple"?

If I've been asked once I've been asked a thousand times; "how long will it take to create / convert / build / etc... ?"

So, how do you answer this question? For example each report request is like a custom implementation of a one-off design. Sure, a report request is rather limited by what a user is asking for. Sometimes it is a request that the user wants some information based on how some other information is reported. For example; "I'd like a report that looks like the Marketing and Sales Report, telling me how many inquiries my reps are answering per hour.?

Sounds simple enough; basically locate the source of the data, do some simple math and use the template (or the Marketing and Sales Report as a template) to build the report. Ultimately you'll be asked "so, when do you think I'll have it?" What they want to hear is probably expressed in minutes or hours. And some tools and frameworks can make this happen (BIRT Report Studio) but you'll still need to do some work on the front-end to set this stuff up. In either case, it takes some time. So, back to the question, how long will it take?

If you were to simply piece together some attributes from a data set created from the query you built from your investigation on where the 'Call Center Inquiry' data resides, you'd have something to show in a matter of an hour or two at most. Problem is, it will very likely not be what the user wanted or they'll have some fine-tune suggestions / requests. Before you know it, you'll have gone back and forth between tweeks & fine-tune requests for a week. So, how long did this simple request take? an hour or two or a week?

How do you answer this question? Do you have a formal request process? If so; does this process severely reduce your service level overall? Should you simply not make reports request available untill after a "Self-Service" Reporting framework like BIRT Report Studio is in place?