Home > Leadership, The Monday Musings Column, What I do > Cracking codes and getting the secrets – a day in the life of JB

Cracking codes and getting the secrets – a day in the life of JB

They meet in a quiet office overlooking the restricted area. Security guards with fearsome dogs patrol behind razor wire topped fences. She knows why JB is there. They waste no time on small talk; she slides a single sheet of A4 paper across the desk to him. He glances down the two columns typed upon it and nods. He puts the page into his briefcase, they shake hands and he leaves.

His footsteps echo across the almost vacant upper floor of the car park. Locked in his car he waits for a moment, but there is no-one in sight. JB drives down the ramp and out to the main road. At the roundabout he goes round twice; is he checking for a tail, or did he just miss his exit? We can’t say; it’s a secret.

Back at base JB powers up his computer and loads the spreadsheet he had been sent earlier in the week. There in column D is a series of 4 digit entries. He takes the sheet of A4 and checks the first column there against column D. He smiles. Now it all makes sense. The secrets of 9 months worth of transactions are revealed to him.

JB? That’s me, not that 007 bloke, but there are times when I feel an affinity with the world of the secret service when it comes to digging out information within a business, and that is all too often the root of the problem; the capture and sifting of information becomes a shadowy black art practiced by a few and passed out to an even smaller number on a “need to know” basis.

I exaggerate of course, but I’m not that far off the mark in this observation, and it is a source of great frustration for me that many businesses still operate like this. Being of some vintage I saw the computer revolution arrive and worked in several outfits where the magic boxes were implemented to supplant the old manual systems, and I’ve managed the implementation of first and second stage computerisation.

“If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it” is an expression I grew to loathe, not because it is wrong, but because I heard it spouted so often by people who didn’t understand the source of the numbers that they were using. In the early days probably the best you could hope for in terms of management information was from overnight processing; this morning you would have a print out of yesterday’s activity (although in many cases you might only have a weekly report).  Now we can have real time information if we need it.

Garbage in, garbage out. Your data needs to come from a single source that everyone that needs it can have access to and can have it delivered in the form that they need it. It should not be an industry in its own right: The key to management information is knowing what you want and obtaining it, not by having a separate process, but by a good data capture process that picks up the information as a by product of getting the job done. That relies on various ways of coding things so that the computer can pull it out for you and show you what you need.

Like all good things, a little time invested up front saves huge amounts later giving you accurate and consistent information at the right intervals. Simple solutions work wonders, so get it right and you won’t need a JB, me or the other bloke, to unlock the secrets of your business for you.


  1. Fiona Thomas
    September 6, 2010 at 11:44 am

    So that’s what you were up to in that grubby mac. I thought it might have been something else….

  1. September 6, 2010 at 1:41 pm

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