Bringing board-level reporting into the 21st century

26 February 2014

Brenton O'Callaghan

Brenton O'Callaghan

Global Head of SAP Innovation

I was recently involved in a pretty interesting project where one of the senior executives at the client told us that one of their biggest challenges was providing board-level executives with the information they needed, when they needed it, and in an understandable way. Consequentially, they were unable to make the decisions they needed to fast enough to drive the future of the company in an informed enough way.

As with most executive reporting systems, they are designed for either short-term reports (good, but not very long-term) or longer-term reports that usually take ages to create and are incomprehensible by the time they get to the executive’s desk.

The business challenge

As a company of greater than 100,000 employees and with a market capitalisation in excess of £10bn, the company operation reports and forecasts had a number of fundamental problems

  • They took monumental amounts of time to create
  • The underlying complexity of the inputs to the report were confusing and near impossible to comprehend
  • Minor changes to the reports were very difficult and time consuming
  • The report outputs were visually out-dated and stuck in the Microsoft Excel time warp of the late 1990s
  • Delays in decisions meant that the the company missed out on vital opportunities to gain a competitive advantage.

What they wanted

  • To be able to generate these reports more frequently allowing for critical group-wide decisions to be made faster and in a more informed way
  • Have a report that is responsive to minor changes quickly without massive work loads
  • Bring the overall reports into the 21st Century including a low barrier to understanding

The solution

  • Using design thinking and new web-based technologies we devised a solution that was easy to use and fulfilled all of the requirements set out by the business
  • We exposed a number of key attributes of the report to the highest level allowing for real-time adjustment and what-if scenarios to be created.



  • Throwing out the antiquated excel-type outputs we re-engineered the reports to be based on consumer-grade visuals while retaining the detail required


  • By bringing the solution onto a real-time platform we enabled faster decisions and easier identification of pitfalls at the board level.


  • High-Level what-if scenarios became an executive function rather than an analyst working from executive instructions (less mistakes & more insight)

Giving the board team the competitive edge through real-time reports and understandable outputs was a very quick win. Needless to say the client was very pleased and very grateful. 

My advice here is to not underestimate how valuable small improvements like this could be!

If you want to read more about design thinking, check out my post design for me, not you!

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About the author

Brenton O'Callaghan

Global Head of SAP Innovation

Enterprise technology strategist and emerging technology evangelist

I'm a globally experienced SAP expert based in Ireland and I’m currently responsible for creating and bringing our SAP Innovation & Leonardo practice to market. My day job involves helping our customers to solve actual business problems in a rapid fashion using tools such as design thinking, SAP Leonardo and much more. I'm also responsible for exploring how emerging technologies and concepts can be applied within our customer base such as Machine Learning, Blockchain, DevOps and AI.
I've a background in computer science and have spent the last 9+ years in the SAP space across a wide range of industries across EMEA and North America. I'm a big believer that the best consultants have a mix of technical knowledge, industry experience and empathy and that is what I bring with my team to my customers. It's all about bringing about positive and relevant business change with the best possible technology.
Outside of work you can find me supporting the Irish Rugby team and the Boston Red Sox as well as my new found hobby - golf!


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