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The “Baby on board!” sign illustrates that not all information is useful…

In today’s traffic you can regularly see cars with a sign stating “Baby on board!”. It puzzles me greatly what moves parents to share this type of information with their fellow drivers. I do not intend to discuss whether this information is predominantly correct. Typically the sign is of a more permanent nature than the presence in the vehicle of the aforementioned infant. My puzzlement is about the absolute irrelevance of this data in the given context. There is no information in it that will have any impact on my behavior. And I strongly feel that is true for all road users. No driver has any intention to collide with another car regardless the age of one of its occupants. So every time I see this sign my response is “So what?!”.

Data vs. Information

A client may react in a similar way on the reporting provided by a vendor in an outsourcing engagement. Modern Service Management tooling is able to capture, measure and report all aspects of vendor activity on a multitude of levels. And project support departments are able to visualize a wide range of statistics. But the generated data is in essence only that: data. It only becomes information once it is consolidated, filtered and analyzed. And even than it is not a given that this information is useful to a client.

Any reported information should in some way address a client requirement or question since otherwise the client will ignore it. This frustrates the reporting process and may impact the quality of other more relevant reporting. Most likely it will negatively impact the quality of communication as part of the engagement governance. The “So what” question can be a powerful tool to improve the reporting flow between vendor and client.

Keep your reporting requirements up-to-date

Typically parties initiate an outsourcing contracts with certain specific intentions in mind. That can be cost reduction, quality improvement or any of a wide range of transition or transformation goals. Obviously it is important for a client to be explicit about these goals to allow the vendor to optimize his general behavior including the reporting he will provide.

Parties should discuss all reporting at the appropriate level to allow an appropriate response to the insights provided by this analysis of relevant data. In some cases when it proves to be difficult to find an audience for a report this might be an important indicator that the information provided is not or no longer relevant. It is therefore good practice to assess regularly (at least once every quarter) whether the full set of information provided by the vendor still addresses the particular requirements of the client in that stage of the engagement. Does the information provide insight on whether agreed goals are achieved? Does the reporting identify risks that require mitigation? Or does the info have financial impact (consumption based billing, penalties, bonus/malus schemes etc.)?

With only negative answers the reporting is probably obsolete. To be sure you then imagine the information will no longer be available in the future and ask yourself the ultimate question: “So what?”