To celebrate my mother’s birthday, this post is dedicated to fixing one of her frustrations – being overwhelmed with information that delivers very little insight.
Have you ever found yourself in the situation where you’ve had to make an important business decision, IT have given you a 100-page report (that took months to develop) and yet you can’t find the one answer you need to make the right decision?
Considered an “expert” in the realm of Business Analytics, I like to think my customers learn a thing or two from me. Equally so, I learn a lot from them.
“When I sit down with the business I don’t ask them what report they want me to write. I ask them what decision they want to make.”
Honest words spoken by an IT manager across the other side of the world – so profound the ripple effect has travelled across the Pacific Ocean to the land of Oz. Words that entirely make sense, and yet it got me thinking – how many of us are asking the right questions when it comes to analysing data?
I must confess I am, and always have been, an Enterprise gal. My entire career has been spent in the company of large organisations and big-name brands – Qantas, Australia Post, Telstra, NAB, ANZ, Vodafone, BHP, Toll…if you can recognise the logo, chances are I’ve worked with- or for- them in the past 13 years.
Like their small to mid-sized counterparts, large Enterprises can’t escape the fundamental challenge of meeting the analytical needs of departments with a department-sized budget. For many, an Enterprise-wide approach to analytics is simply not realistic. The challenge of course, is being able to meet the needs of the department, with the comfort that as the organisation grows, the departmental solution can scale to meet the changing needs of the business.
Okay. Let’s talk fashion.
How do you feel about orange jumpsuits? Or a nice little white number with black arrows painted all over? For the real fashionistas out there, you could even accessorise with a ball and chain, or a “special friend”.
It’s not exactly the standard fare chosen by Executives today, but for some, a style forced upon them after failing to acknowledge the seriousness of accurate and timely regulatory reporting. In fact, it was just last year that an entire board of directors at a local water company were sacked for issues surrounding financial governance. They got off lightly by global standards.
“Once upon a time, there was a very large organisation who wanted to rule the kingdom. Each week, their Executives would meet in a room to discuss the performance of their troops, and carry with them a 200 page PDF document printed on paper from the Enchanted Forest. They would sit around their Oak-carved table, and argue through the key performance indicators on the first few pages, only occasionally turning to one of the other 190 pages to find specific detail about why one troop was performing so poorly.
This process continued for years and years, until one day, a Knight in shining blue armour appeared on her beautiful blue horse saying “But wait! There’s a better way to view these results, ensuring you not only rule the kingdom, but preserve the Enchanted Forest. This will bring peace and prosperity to the Kingdom in which you live!”
So the Executives embarked on their greatest journey ever, armed with iPads and an IBM Cognos Active Report to deliver only the information they needed most, with the ability to drill to more detail as needed. The Executives went on to make more informed decisions and rule the Kingdom, spending less time flipping through piles of paper and more time playing croquet.”
Whilst this might sound like a bed time story I tell to my children, the first part is in fact a reality that exists in many organisations today. Important meetings spend more time focused on arguing over who’s version of performance is right, and less time debating the actions that can be taken to deliver better results.