Insight from Agora Consultants

Are your reports hurting project success?

I read a very interesting piece from Harvard Business about blindly trusting reports. I still rememb [More]

Before undertaking a BI project, make sure you can answer this question

If you have new information how will you run your organization differently? If you are not ready to make changes in your company, having new information will not contribute new value. You must be ready to break old habits. You must be ready to make new decisions based on the facts. For instance, if you are implementing a BI system to report on Sales activities, you may be faced with information that tells you that you need to: stop the sale of a non-producing product fire a sales person not hitting quota drop an unprofitable customer put more marketing dollars towards a popular product You have to be ready for process change as well. BI systems usually save labour by automating reports. Surprisingly though, people may be reluctant to stop manually preparing reports. They may be quite comfortable creating them the way they always have when they had control over exactly where the numbers came from and where they went. A Business Intelligence system can only arm you with the information about what changes need to be made – making the changes is up to you.

Can your organization handle the truth?

Do you need help getting your organization to stick to the facts? Is there lots of data in your organization but hesitation to share it? Be utilizing some Business Intelligence (BI) best practices these problems can be tackled. The power of BI is combining information from various data sources to form a comprehensive picture of a business function. The data source is the book of record for the business function. For BI to work effectively, the data transfers from the book of record to the reporting system (such as a datamart) without human interaction. Since each data source may exist in different business units there are often different data owners. This level of transparency and automation can be challenging in organizations. A business unit may be very concerned about “the wrong data being incorporated”. Prior to an effective BI system a business unit might manually handle the data before it is delivered to another business unit. They aren’t necessarily changing the truth, it may just be they have a level of knowledge which requires the data to be modified to met the needs of the other business unit. To create an environment which allows the seamless flow of information, undertake the following: Tackle the source system of the data to ensure the data is clean. Sometimes the hesitation to provide access to data is a concern that the data may not be correct. If there are business process that currently manually transform the data see if they can be automated and pushed back into the source system. Get Executive Sponsorship right from the top. Ultimately all business units roll up to someone. Getting that Executive to commit to unaltered information sharing will send the right message to the individual business units. Demonstrate the advantages of open information. If information flows between business units there will be a lot less requests for information that has to be prepared manually. Organizations have rich sets of data which they can use to improve their business. The data needs to be accepted unaltered to make it useful. Putting in place the right foundation will allow information to transfer more seamlessly between business units.

What’s your number?

If you needed to look at one number (only one number) on a daily basis to run your Business what would it be? What would that number be for a weekly basis? Monthly? The next question is do you know what those three numbers are today? If not why not? If they are three of the most critical numbers to your business shouldn’t you have them? As an exercise, pick what your daily number should be. Go get that number every day for the next week. See if it makes a difference to the decisions you make through the day. If you are in Sales it might be the size of the sales funnel. If you are a Programmer it might be the number of outstanding defects. If you are a Resource Manager it might be the number of unallocated project tasks in the next three months. To use Business Intelligence in your organization you need to know what numbers are important. You don’t need a lot of numbers – just the key ones.