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How many hats is one person supposed to wear?
April 25, 2011 12:15 PM   Subscribe

Am I incompetent or being pulled in too many directions? Very long, I'm afraid.

I work as a reporting analyst for a major bank. I consolidate and report on data from a dozen different groups for customer service metrics. This job has evolved out of recognition and I'm completely unable to tell if I'm just grossly incompetent or if I'm just in a no-win situation.

When I first started, my role was to send reporting out to the actual managers of the groups and to do requested analysis as it arose. I also developed monthly and weekly reporting for our oversight organization. This analysis was all extremely manual, as it was based on excel files the managers maintained themselves, so I had to reformat and fix all their spreadsheets before I could do anything to analyze them.

Then our department was reorganized. We then developed an internal web-based application for which I became responsible. Although I had no formal programming experience, I was expected to develop and maintain the dozen different front-ends for the different groups. I was also expected to do reporting for all of their information. Because it is information which comes directly from customers, it is not clean data, so I spend a lot of time trying to make it coherent before I can send it to the bank. No one understands this, although I've repeatedly tried to communicate this, so the work I have to do to make it match is, in essence, invisible.

I also get innundated with requests to make changes for the database, so I spent a lot of my time trying to patch the application to make it run the way everyone expects it to. I was still supposed to do all the reporting and analysis, but the applications were a full-time role (as my manager admitted) so I didn't get as much developed in reporting for our new department as I'd wanted, but even the processes I developed were not looked at by management for three months of weekly reports.

I am also not getting traction on the things that I report. My managers are angry that I'm not getting follow-ups from the teams, but I have as much as I can do to complete the reporting without going to each of twelve groups muliple times to get updates that no one reads. In addition, the groups don't speak to each other or interact well, so they use my oversight team to wage petty little wars with each other.

They're going to transition the application support to someone else to clear my plate for analysis, but the data is still going to require four to five hours to clean every time I want to do analysis, the groups are still going to refuse to respond to my emails until the third request, and I get no feedback on anything that I have produced unless I either sit down in someone's office and demand it or something goes wrong and I'm collateral damage in the wars between these groups.

Is this normal for a mid-level business analyst position? Should I be not only generating the reporting but directing all the resolution work in these other groups? It is normal for someone who is not in management to do reporting, analysis, as well as drive the remediation efforts in a dozen different groups with more than sixty people, when the data takes half a day to get into any sort of format that can be used, and it changes every day? I feel like I'm completely incompetent, and I'm certain my managers do, too. I'm just not sure how much is me and how much is the role.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (12 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
You have too much to do and management is choosing not to listen to you.

Stop thinking that you're incompetent. Maybe you weren't sure before you asked the question, but I'm telling you now - it's the workload, it's not you. So please PUT OUT OF YOUR MIND any question that you could possibly be bad at your job. You're good. I Have Spoken.

Get yourself a single-person account at Fogbugz and start tracking your time. You can then provide evidence-based estimates.

I know it sounds counterintuitive, but you need to try less hard to please and instead, square your shoulders, stop begging for information and instead start TELLING people what you need from them. Start acting as if you are in charge.

Try only asking people for information once and, if they don't provide it, their request falls further down the queue. Either they communicate or shit doesn't get done, and they can scream and cry all they want about it because you're in charge and if they have problems because they choose not to do their jobs properly, you don't give a shit.

For example, after you have some evidence built up, you could say "I spent 30 hours cleansing data per week. If I'm going to take on more I need another staff member to cleanse the data while I get on with the reporting itself. I'd also like to block off some time to automate tasks X, Y, and Z which I repeatedly have to carry out manually."

They may choose not to listen to you, because in many cases no amount of attitude change and rational argument will change their minds. For whatever reason, they may just enjoy being angry and irresponsible and they may have built their professional survival around having someone to discredit and bully. In fact I think that's the most likely outcome here. Well, let them enjoy themselves, because you started looking for a better job as soon as you finished writing this post and you have an offer in hand and they can eat your dust.
posted by tel3path at 12:43 PM on April 25, 2011 [6 favorites]

I'm not familiar with your particular industry, and I don't even understand all the vocabulary of what you do. But - it's clear that you're being asked to do way too much. Just reading your post makes me tired. Your workload sounds excessive and overwhelming. I think that you really need help from your managers. Have you told them the equivalent of what you've written here? Do they know how bad it is?

For me, the most annoying thing would be the lack of response from the people who are supposed to be giving you data. Perhaps it would help to change their incentives. Right now, when they fail to reply to your email, who gets blamed? Whose fault is it perceived to be? Is there a way you could shift that dynamic so that they experience negative consequences for their failure to communicate?
posted by medusa at 12:52 PM on April 25, 2011

Woah. Headache. You are not being managed well, this is not your fault. It sounds like nobody really knows what they're asking you to do.

One major hang up that will alleviate your workload is a common formatting system that you need to force people to use. You should not be reformatting all of the information that comes your way every week. If it's not submitted with the right format, you send it back.

You should also not have to deal with begging different teams to submit you required information. I would even copy your manager on emails asking for information from teams that are not being responsive. Or at the very least work with your manager on a way to get teams to buy in and comply on the first email request.

Don't be afraid to ask for help, as many times as you need to. This is a good attribute, not something that makes you weak. You're not incompetent. Hang in there.
posted by pwally at 1:01 PM on April 25, 2011

I know some people who have similar roles as you i.e. reporting on data collected by other groups that you don't have managerial responsibility over. Sadly, a lot of their job is chasing after people to get the data they need to run their reports.
posted by mmascolino at 1:06 PM on April 25, 2011

Is it normal for someone who is not in management to do reporting, analysis, as well as drive the remediation efforts in a dozen different groups with more than sixty people, when the data takes half a day to get into any sort of format that can be used, and it changes every day?

In my experience it's pretty normal, but it's also unreasonable. If reporting is this important to the company, they should have a process in place for managing it, not a person who gets thrown into the role with no authority or established business rules.
posted by mneekadon at 1:23 PM on April 25, 2011

tel3path has it. Do all that. You are not failing, you are attempting the impossible, and then piling on a little more for good measure. Be strong and good luck.
posted by thinkpiece at 1:29 PM on April 25, 2011

No, it doesn't sound like you -- it sounds like you have too much to do. Instead of feeling guilty, aggrieved, and frustrated, I recommend that you break your problems into solvable pieces, and then start little campaigns for solutions. Bring just one problem at a time into your weekly check-in with your manager and either present some solutions or brainstorm them together. Once you have some buy-in from your manager, or even have them thinking the proposed solutions are his/her original idea, then carry out that solution. Some will take time, but say things to keep it on the radar screen: "Of course, as soon as we hire an assistant to take on the data cleaning, I will be able to do much more analysis."
posted by salvia at 1:44 PM on April 25, 2011

I have a similar role to you and it sounds to me that you are doing way too much work cleaning up that data.

In my role-I access the database and then run my reports (I use crystal reports and I highly recommend it). I do create views, stored procedures, test tables..etc BUT if there is a data issue (or even if the report is running slow) -we roll that right up to the DBAs and data control team. It's not my jobs (as an analyst) to determine where the data is going wrong or to kill instances on a server.

I think it's fair that you expect more analysis and actual reporting-rather than data cleanup.

What platforms are you using? Is all this info on a database somewhere?
posted by duddes02 at 2:00 PM on April 25, 2011

On the data cleanup issue, Excel formulas and text manipulation (I.e. Regular expressions) can help you immensely. I'm a lawyer with inadequate IT support and this is what preserves my sanity. Otherwise good advice all around in this thread.
posted by moammargaret at 2:33 PM on April 25, 2011

Warning to you:

We had a person in our organisation who took on the reporting role. They had no formal training and used a variety of spreadsheets to produce monthly reports. The business increasingly relied on him and his knowledge with absolutely no clue as to the effort he put into the monthly reports. He has recently gone on stress leave, and the business is in a bad situation because of it.

Ask now about training in SQL Server Reporting Services - SSRS (I'm sure your org will have it - if not there is a free version available from Microsoft) - Or Business Objects (expensive)

But you need to get away from the spreadsheets and warehouse the data you are using. Build up some reports in SSRS, and reporting becomes much easier.
posted by the noob at 7:36 PM on April 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

My managers

right there, a big problem.
posted by telstar at 9:51 PM on April 25, 2011

Wow, you do have quite too many hats.
Since management isn't listening, and people are displeased withh the delays,if this is in house I would begin copying all parties into emails.
I tend to begin doing this when I knew people at work ignored my emails, or would avoid answering an import question. This did two things, brought issues to the forefront as to parties not pulling through in a timely manner, as well as assert myself in a stronger manner. It has worked well, as I wear many hats at work (with restricted hours of which I am not happy about, as well as one staff member short). I've gotten people in to the habit of answering me more quickly and also alerted management in a very tangible way as to issues concerning policy.
You may not be able to do this with a huge corporation, but with names in emails copied, people will have someone to point the blame for dragging their feet.
I hate getting to that point, but it has brought up shortcomings within inter department communications and I seem to think its aided the work place.
posted by handbanana at 11:06 PM on April 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

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