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Data Management

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Data Overload: Admin Tasks Continue to Strain High-Level Performers

Software engineers waste 9.9 hours on administrative tasks per week.

Few of us have time for low-level administrative tasks, but that doesn't stop many of us from working inefficiently or relying on information inefficiently collected.

"We had a client using 200 different ledger systems for their accounting," said Peter Minck, VP of business solutions at Redwood Software in a phone interview. "Imagine how hard it is to aggregate that information. Imagine how many people are employed to babysit those systems, and how accurate the data can be once it is all compiled."

On some level, business from retail to banking can relate to this problem.

Within today's economic environment, executives are busily scrutinizing data analysis and essential personnel in an effort to remain profitable. Yet somehow, despite addressing both of these issues, preventing administrative tasks from bogging down high-level performers isn't given due attention.

Problem? What Problem?

A survey commissioned by Electric Cloud found that software engineers waste about 9.9 hours per week for housekeeping functions, or mindless administrative tasks that take software engineers away from their higher-level responsibilities. About the same can be said for the broader base in IT, design engineering, and the business owner’s area. The waste is astronomical.

Minck explains, "When we go in and see what these big firms — household name companies — are doing, it's just astounding." He spoke of rooms of recent college graduates aggregating data from systems after system into excel sheets, and entire teams employed simply to watch over databases. "Often times senior management is not aware of it, they just think the information the receive is reliable enough and gets to them in an automated way."

Automation Complements A Cost-Cutting Solution

To be clear, when we talk about these systems, we have to understand that companies are very complex behind the scenes. There is a lot of data that Wall Street firms have to tabulate given their location and transactions, clearings, and many other moving pieces. The systems to collect and organize that data can be equally widespread. As businesses add databases and make acquisitions, it's easy to grasp how the staff-time allocated to managing the systems grows in tandem.

Yet given the strain on resources and low-level work involved these businesses have a compelling reason to better connect and reevaluate their need for the people put in the middle of databases. Redwood Software, which offers a process automation to streamline and connect applications and manual tasks, says the result of automation of systems is value added across the board.

"We have this orchestration across various systems; we highlight issues that come up and send them to appropriate people, but we eliminate people who are just extra eyeballs on screens." The results, it seems, are cut costs and more reliable information and faster delivery for managers and clients. Minck claims consolidation can save 20% — 40% ("and sometimes more") in manual intervention.

[For more trends in IT spending read: 2014 IT Spending To Increase Slightly]

As an example, Minck recalls a financial service client that had various data centers thought US staffed with 2 to 3 people at each center managing the systems. "When they deployed us, their 25 data centers went down and the 50-75 people they employed were cut by more than half in the first six months of deployment and they are continuing to ratchet down, ultimately looking for just one in each region, which is a huge cost savings."

Data to Information

Different industries have different focuses, but they all have in common a requirement for better and faster information. Whether it be banks with retail branches, a huge technology company or fashion retailers, they have all developed business approaches that resulted in an overload of systems. There's always a need for some business process automation to take the various system data and derive some meaningful information.

"There's no shortage of data, but there is a shortage of good information, and that's what we're all about,” says Minck. "We're able to give businesses faster information and activity data that happened on behalf of their customers. We also see benefits in the ability to deal with the customer service side of thing, and an increased ability of the clients to get to the information they need in a timely fashion."

So who's taking charge? "We're approached by CIOs, VP of applications, continuous improvement groups, and CFOs looking to bring technology in to address the number of eyeballs allocated to databases," says Minck. "We're able to put a light on the situation and show why these employees who babysit databases should be doing more value added tasks… It's one thing to say, I can save x dollars here, but it's another to say because I can get you information faster we no longer need a person using Excel to create reports." Becca Lipman is Senior Editor for Wall Street & Technology. She writes in-depth news articles with a focus on big data and compliance in the capital markets. She regularly meets with information technology leaders and innovators and writes about cloud computing, datacenters, ... View Full Bio

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