Working in the Information Management / Business Intelligence space, we always search for those perfect ‘golden nugget’ type stories to share. “Company X leveraged their ‘Y data warehouse’ and increased sales ‘Z%”… Or the latest cutting edge business intelligence solution enabled company ‘C’ to grasp ALL of their information and insight and well, they are now destroying their competition, predicting the future and taking over the world… due to their investment in company ‘B’.
These stories are fantastic – and for the customers involved (as well as the right prospective customers) they are illustrations of smart IT decisions to grasp their own information for better decision making. Great. Yet before we run out the door, bottling solutions with a ‘one-size-fits-all’ mentality, we have to pause and acknowledge the fact that not everyone will benefit from this.
Over the last few months, while I was on assignment in China, I had the opportunity to interface and examine the operational business models of a number of companies and organizations. While this engagement had nothing to do with my day to day involvement in data warehousing and business analytics, I always kept in the back of my mind – “How are these organizations using their information systems?”
While many (if not all) of the organizations had a developed IT infrastructure, I was not able to see any business intelligence being reaped (minus one lone Finance manager investigating balanced scorecards) from the collected data. On that note – even in the B2C companies, information was not being captured via technology – it was interpersonal and ‘in-person’. Now, I am an advocate for more face to face business (Don’t even get me started on the ‘effectiveness’ of the virtual meeting) but there is no way that a company can grow efficiently when there is no information sharing across employees and departments.
Growth itself was the common issue with all of my clients.
When you are selling out of a product, you have to increase production to meet the rising demand. Yet, capital investment to increase manufacturing is only one side of the coin. You also need to scale your leaders, your sales force, your marketing, etc. How do you expand your reach and your organization, if all of the information assets are in your head? or your respective employee’s heads. We need to share information via technology to make better, more informed decisions. This it the foundation of business intelligence – You need to capture and record the data before you can make analytical decisions, correct?
Perhaps my head is still in China, consulting on corporate development – but I am honestly overwhelmed by the amount of marketing stories back home that are swinging for the fence. I open my first paper version of the Wall Street Journal in months (Their iPad app absolutely saved me from the great firewall) and I see some silly Oracle marketing on ‘fastest data warehouse, yada yada’. I kinda chuckeled – yet also cringed.
I must be on a usability kick, but if we put more effort into making business intelligence technology consumable, more usable, more tangible – rather than these uber expensive ‘shock’ ads – we’d get a lot more stories about success, which kinda pay for themselves.
Back to my original thought – The vast majority of companies need basic blocking and tackling when it comes to business intelligence and data warehousing – Basic reports, quality data, relevant data. I’m fully aware that we require the thought leadership stories, but let’s tone down force feeding clients solutions that only are consumable by 1% of the population. (Not everyone has $M+ to spend)
Product developers, analysts and marketers (as I am guilty of this) go off on technology rants to differentiate products as well as differentiate themselves. We have endless blogs on columnar vs relational, appliance vs custom, commercial vs. open source and anything else that we can jam pack into the latest product announcement or press release.
Not one company that I worked with while on assignment cared about any of the above. They only asked, “Can you help me figure out how to gain market share?” and “How can we understand our clients better?”
Sales 101 – Listen to the customer first. …It’s time to get back to basics.