The main accomplishment in Scene I was to wean the End User (EU) away from ‘reports and formats’ and get him to talk about the performance defining parameters and have the application compute them for him.
So when they assembled again a few days later, the Business Analyst (BA) and the End User (EU) had a ‘cheshire’ grin.
The report designed this time had all the right columns and filters for selection. Additionally Fuel Efficiency was computed and reported at the bottom.
The Consultant (C) checked if they agreed on how Fuel Efficiency was computed. While the definition was simple – the ratio of kilometers run upon fuel consumed –in reality the method for computing it was a little tricky and at best approximate. It was important to ensure this was understood clearly and unambiguously. The kilometers run had to be marked from one tank-fill to another and the efficiency computed over so many tank-fills. The period of computation was not delimited by a day or a week or any other time period. Over many tank-fills, the computation would have made little difference if it was delimited by tank-fills or by time-period, but not when the tank-fills were only a few in a week. Also it was not always a full tank-fill. Sometimes they went in for a fill on sighting a filling station though the tank was not empty yet. This meant the amount of fuel filled had to be additionally captured and it could not be assumed always to be the capacity of the tank.
To their credit, this was clearly set out by the EU and well understood by the BA. No issues there.
‘Now, what do you do with this magic number on Fuel Efficiency?’ C asked the EU.
‘Well, I now I know if I have a problem or not.’
‘know’ was the proverbial red-rag to the C.
‘How do you know? Let me put it differently – how do you defend this number to your boss?’
‘I look at this number and look at the type of roads covered.And I know if it’s right or not.’
‘How does it work?’
‘It all depends – if the kilometers were run on highways, I expect a higher efficiency than if it were within a city. Similarly, if the vehicle is on a productive run, it is usually at a lower speed and hence at lower efficiency than in transit.’
‘So you look at the number and look at the composition of the run kilometers and take a call?’
‘Yes, that’s right.’
‘Everybody – your boss and the supervisors in the field – they buy your call?’
‘How about getting the system to apply the ‘judgment’ you presently make?’
‘If it can be done…’
‘All you need to do is to capture the daily break-up of kilometers run under those four heads: Intracity (Production and Transit) and Intercity (Production and Transit).’
‘That’s possible, though it may not be accurate. We can get the vehicle crew to log the daily kilometers in that manner. That’s not too much additional effort for them.’
‘Now, let us get the break-up in and compute the Fuel Efficiency for each of those four categories separately. You’ll then see clearly the performance and the problem if there’s one.’
End of Scene II
Clearly this was more helpful in getting nearer to the problem area. The trick was to ask the question ‘What would you do with the output?’ repeatedly and get as close as possible to the real performance or the problem. And not stop half-way and get the EU to cover the rest in his head.
In many instances the EU is shortchanged in a manner he is not even aware of. He is required to further process the data given to him. Essentially the output is not directly usable.
It would be interesting to do this simple check on any system – how many of the outputs are directly usable, immediately supporting decisions made? It may reveal pockets of IT inefficiencies, besides throwing up redundancies and inconsistencies in the output.
For reasons of clarity a minor detail was missed out in the above scene: the EU pointed out while a break-up of daily kilometers run is a simple matter, the fuel consumption in the day could not be broken up under those heads. And, hence, Fuel Efficiency could not be computed under the different categories. For a moment C’s efforts to push for greater proximity to the performance appeared stymied. He suggested: start with reasonable targets for Fuel Efficiency for each of the four heads. For the actual kilometers run over several tank-fills, compute the weighted Fuel Efficiency, applying the targets to these kilometers. Now the weighted target Fuel Efficiency is available for comparison to the actual Fuel Efficiency realized.
Credit: openclipart.com (Anonymous)