To find the value of your business data and reports, get rid of them. At least for a while.

Mark Lack, manager of strategy analytics and BI at Mueller Inc. took that approach during a lengthy enterprise resource planning upgrade and analytics overhaul.

In stages over the course of five years, the business requirements evolved for the Texas-based steel and metal building provider as it was updating its systems, including an upgrade to JD Edwards OneWorld and adoption of IBM Cognos. Mueller took the opportunity to realign and automate its enterprise metrics along a balanced scorecard of expectations. Rather than build all of this atop the existing mish-mash of information expectations, Lack and his team cut analytic reports.

Rather than widespread outcry, it exposed the volume of daily, weekly and monthly reports going out to various departments and teams, many of which were only requested by one person or had little value to an end user, but was less of a hassle to simply delete. With accumulation, it revealed how these old reports were the basis of differing views of business results and productivity. There was even one employee who had a task to print out a 100-page report every week and then enter the numbers from each page into a spreadsheet that was distributed to 10 colleagues.

“The way we look at it is, we had an earthquake when we got this [new] ERP system and we had the opportunity to start over with our information. From that point, we looked at what do we need to know. Not what would we like to know or what did we know in the past, but what do we need to be effective.”

As they dealt with the upgrade and migration over the first few months, even manually at points, Lack said the priority was to take care of the basics while ultimately moving Mueller ahead.

“People were lining up to pick up steel for projects, but we can’t tell them to wait for an invoice,” he said. “The last thing we were worried about was profitability reports from a period of months.”

Mark was one of’s “25 Top Information Managers 2012.” Click here for a full list of honorees, including business data pros from NASA, Fidelity Investments, Marriott International and the NBA’s Orlando Magic. For a slide show, click here.

As the new ERP and analytic delivery systems got their legs, Mueller spent time on reports that worked with a new scale of deeper numbers. The first reports were, not surprisingly, related to sales and revenue, where Mueller quickly scored new sources of buyers in the southwest and details for marketing to them. All of this trickled up to a batch of new, unified analytics for the C-suite. It wasn’t just the part-time absence of information that made the new reports and daily data collaborations work so well, it was the refined nature of information, which Lack said has also prompted ease with user adoption rates down to the factory floor department managers.

“We were so under the weight of this ERP data gathering system that we didn’t have many reports for a few months after we went live. People came to a point where they were information starved,” Mueller said. “We started feeding out sales reports and revenue reports, and we were able to see things in new ways compared with the processes we had before. It was more of a streamlined approach based on what information was needed.”

Lack has been at Mueller since late 2000, advancing from an entry-level analyst role to his current position, complete with an office between the CEO and the CFO. Now, with company-wide metrics in hand, Lack sees himself as more of an ombudsman of business information operations across the company.

“Our people have the most value when they can manage processes for our customers. And if I haven’t set up a structure so that they can find the information they’re looking for in two minutes, then I haven’t done my job,” said Lack. “We want to put our effort where we add value.”

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