Business Analytics: Design Outcomes, Not Solutions

The title “Solution Architect” is one I’ve carried proudly for some time.  After listening to a TED presentation on the way to work this morning, I’m thinking of changing it to “Outcome Architect”.  I don’t design solutions, I design outcomes.  And here’s why.

The world of technology used to exist to solve business problems.  We’d evaluate the systems and processes that were “broken” and design solutions to alleviate the “business pain”.

In his TED presentation, Timothy Prestero highlights the drawback of designing a solution to a problem, in that we might miss key factors that are important in determining whether the solution is used, and therefore, successful.  A solution inherently focuses on the problem when what we really want is an outcome.

The conversations I have with customers today are not always about what’s broken.  It’s about what’s possible.  Organizations are still concerned with fixing or improving key deficiencies in their business, but on the whole they are technically mature enough to know how to fix them (or at least where to start).

Organizations are now interested in understanding how technology can identify new opportunities for growth and competitive edge.  This may come in the form of identifying new markets, more profitable products, more profitable customers and more efficient use of resources – all of which can generate outcomes of significant impact.

Take for example XO Communications, who with the help of IBM sought to better understand their customers to protect existing revenues by reducing customer churn, increasing profitability and improving client service.

The Outcome:

26% increased customer retention
376% annual return
on investment
Payback in
5 months
Annual net benefit
of over $3.8 million

Similarly, Cincinnati Zoo set a goal of increasing attendance and revenues by enhancing the customer experience for each visitor.

The Outcome:

4.2% increase in ticket sales
25% increase in food revenues
Payback in 3 months
Total benefit of $2.2 million

First Tennessee Bank set the goal to better analyze the large volumes of customer-related data they had accumulated and derive insight of value to the business.

The Outcome:

ROI 642%
Payback in 2 months
Average annual benefit of $899,095

Whilst the numbers seem too good to be true, these types of outcomes are fast becoming the norm for business analytics solutions delivered by IBM.  This is partly due to the low total cost of ownership of IBM Business Analytics technologies that are designed to balance business self-service with IT manageability, but also because we recognize that every business is unique and a cookie-cutter approach fundamentally will not deliver competitive advantage.  Our approach is to leverage the tools and technologies within the Business Analytics portfolio to deliver insight with significant business value – and that value is defined differently by each and every customer.

When it comes to deriving value from information, be sure to design for business outcomes, not technology solutions.