Evaluative Criteria for Management Information Needs
(Reprinted with permission)
The CPA Journal (a publication of the New York Society of CPA’s)
By Gregory F. Pashke, CPA
Fargo Dowling Pashke & Twargowski
The operating environment of today’s organizations demands timely, efficient and effective management information to facilitate the decision-making process. To meet these needs, organizations need to increase their awareness of the available criteria for evaluation of management information needs.
The following suggested evaluative criteria are offered as a frame of reference for use by management personnel (and/or external consultant) involved in planning, developing and monitoring organizational information needs.
It is important to note that the proper use of the criteria will involve the assessment of qualitative as well as quantifiable attributes and will require the dealing in the unfamiliar and uncomfortable qualitative arena. Also, since the criteria will not generally carry equal weight, management will need an adequate grasp of the critical criteria of its own organization. Use of the evaluative criteria should, however, provide a framework for “relative ranking” of competing data requests and thus allow for a rational allocation of available organizational resources. The evaluation job will still be difficult, but a systematic approach should increase the likelihood that all the “bases” will be covered.
- Feasibility – Can the desired information actually be derived, and if so, presented in a meaningful fashion in light of user and data developer lead time constraints?
- Necessity – How necessary is the desired information in assisting the management decision process towards organizational goals and objectives? Is the information fundamental or merely interesting?
- Usefulness – Is the information truly useful in terms of assisting the management decision process towards organizational goals and objectives?
- Cost Justifiability – Are the anticipated or actual benefits from the information development greater than the costs to derive such data? What about alternative opportunity costs?
- End User Oriented – Is the information conducive to the needs of the end user? Do personnel turnover and varied used backgrounds (different strokes for different folks) present additional constraints?
- Distribution Adequacy – Does the information circulate to the appropriate decision-maker? (Excessive distribution can produce as many hazards as insufficient or misdirected distribution).
- Desired Frequency – Is the frequency of data preparation the most appropriate under the circumstances or would greater or lesser reporting intervals be more fitting?
- Adequate Preciseness – Does the level of data preciseness conform to the usage requirements (neither too detailed nor too sketchy) of the information user?
- Adequate Format – Is the reporting format (method and mode of presentation) conducive to the needs of the information user or is the information produced in a canned or standardized fashion?
- Reliability – Is the derived information reliable (credibility quotient) for its intended use?
- Sensitivity – Is the sensitivity of derived data such that decisions will be dramatically affected by changes in circumstances? (Is the range of data confidence sufficient?)
- Efficiency – Is the data accumulated, processed, and used in an efficient fashion? (What are the potential improvements to the data development process?)
- Effectiveness – How effective is the generated data in achieving the desired informational requirements? (Was it worth the effort?)
- Suitability – Is the information generated suitable or of continuing significance to the changing requirements of the organization?
PITFALLS TO AVOID
Management should also be aware of some common pitfalls involved in the management information process and do its best to avoid or circumvent their occurrence.
- Unnecessary Data – Avoid an organizational climate that proliferates and perpetuates unneeded management reports.
- Duplication of Effort – Attempt to minimize data duplication through more centralized data report preparation but remember a certain amount of duplication may be necessary to produce effective reports for varying management needs.
- Overdetailed Data – Don’t overwhelm the data user with reams of information. Keep it simple and conducive to the real needs of the user. It is important to determine the crucial factors of information required and the “ability” of the user to digest and utilize the information. Remember, a perfect report that the user can’t understand or is afraid to use, is of little benefit.
- Untimely Data – Remember, the decision-maker needs the information before he makes the decision. A timely report containing only highlight data is a welcome alternative to a “stale” but extensively detailed report received after the decision has been made.
- Format Deficiencies – Avoid the tendency to dictate the report format. Communicate with the end user to know the what, when and how of his data needs. Slight format modifications can sometimes achieve remarkable results.
About the author:
Greg Pashke, CMA, CFM, CMC, CPA/ABV, CBA, CVA, CPCM, MBA is the President of Pashke Consulting, an organizational, managerial, and financial consulting firm. Greg assists organizations strategize, keep score, evaluate results, and monitor their game plans.He can be reached by email at GPashke@PashkeConsulting.com, or by telephone at 772-528-3871 and his web site is: www.pashkeconsulting.com.