Soon after the merger that doubled our company’s size in 2012, the Senior Vice President of Power Generation Operations informed his Regional Vice Presidents that he needed a “Weekly Report” by Sunday morning each week so that he could in turn, compile and present his own report to the COO on Monday mornings.
This was quite an undertaking, given the business unit consisted of more than ninety generating stations and four headquarters in six states and the centralized service groups that supported those locations (engineering, business support, technology support, etc.)
For more than three years, all managers spent time each weekend building their individual reports. They would then send those reports to their Regional VPs who copied, pasted, edited, and formatted their own reports in Microsoft Word. On Sunday mornings, the Regional VPs emailed their regional versions to the Senior VP.
The Senior VP then spent an average of four hours every Sunday afternoon or evening copying, pasting, editing, and formatting his own final report. This was a difficult task, as the seven Regional VPs had difficulty maintaining a consistent format in their reports.
Overload and frustration resulting from the report work was obvious among the managers and Regional VPs. The managers and VPs disliked having to give chunks of every weekend to do the mandated report work.
The task was to improve the process by removing the repetitive copy/paste/format work the managers and VPs were doing. The edit step was still necessary because each layer of management needed to retain the ability to edit information coming from lower levels.
We built a SharePoint Custom List and a couple of Report display web pages as a prototype. After a couple of weeks fielding feedback from the Senior VP, Regional VPs, and managers, we conducted a 30-minute orientation conference call and demonstration before rolling the tool out the following week.
The tool itself did not require 30 minutes of instruction; the call was intended to communicate changed expectations and to field questions. The report tool was intuitive. Managers simply had to click the Report tab at the top of their own station or workgroup SharePoint pages, click “add new item”, and then enter their report items into the web form that appeared.
Managers and individual contributors began entering single-topic items rather than building comprehensive reports. Contributors flagged each item by topic and location, entering them throughout the week rather than waiting for the end of the week and building a comprehensive report.
With the only instruction being the short demo during the conference call and a one-page reference document on the SharePoint, the new process was rolled out.
The new expectation was that report items were to be entered by Fridays at 9am. We encouraged them to enter items throughout the week as they became known to enable real-time awareness higher in the org chart. Important items developing over the weekend were to simply be communicated by email to the Senior VP for verbal communication to the COO on Monday.
Regional VPs were to edit items by noon on Friday, and the Senior VP delegated the final edit role to a direct report with the expectation that the report be finished by end of business each Friday.
Not only was all weekend work eliminated, but all levels of management began spending minutes – rather than hours – developing their reports. Savings were conservatively estimated at over $500,000 in sustainable upper management man-hour savings per year.
Report items were also made available real-time to all employees on a Facebook-style newsfeed, rather than only as a weekly snapshot to managers each Sunday afternoon.
Items flagged as lesser importance – those not requiring escalation to the Senior VP – were available to Regional VPs. This meant that Regional VPs now had a more comprehensive and granular report, while the Senior VP received a report with only high-level items. Because of this, and the fact that the newsfeed worked so well at communicating current items, most regions eliminated their mandatory morning station manager phone calls. We did not figure those phone call savings into the savings figure above, so the actual total savings of this SharePoint solution was well more than our conservative estimate of $500,000.
Past report items also became keyword-searchable and reviewable on the same Weekly Report web page, rather than being hidden away in hundreds of Word documents with varying formats. Reports could be run by station, generating unit, and information category.
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