Looking at some LinkedIn conversations I find a discussion around business intelligence. IBM apparently has maturity levels for being intelligent as they strive to sell more software. And of course, if you are to mature in intelligence it requires (you guessed it) hardware and software.
Here are the levels shared (assumed from IBM):
1. Data to run the business – Basic spreadsheet reporting and information overload.
2. Information to Manage the Business – Basic queries, reports and analytics.
3. Information as a strategic asset – Introduction of role-based and contextual work environments. Business performance management has been integrated. Insights from analytics are made in real time.
4. Information to enable innovation – Role-based work environment. Fully embedded analytical capabilities within processes and systems. Analytics used for foresights and predictive analysis.
5. Information as competitive differentiator – Flexible and adaptive business environments across the enterprise. Business performance and operation are optimized. Analytics gives strategic insights. All relevant internal and external information are seamless and shared.
So there it is, what you need to be intelligent.
This is a command and control manager’s dream. I can hear executives now saying things like “I’m a 4″ or “Once we get the new $7 million system in we will be a 4.5 on the maturity scale.” In the words of John McEnroe . . . “You can’t be serious!”
The divide between knowledge and information/data is so large that you can fit a new Super WalMart between it. The appeal of better decision-making with data perpetuates both poor thinking and work design. No matter how “intelligent” your software is better decision-making through more data is ludicrous.
But like bugs to a light managers love the lure of technology to make them “more intelligent.” Costs, productivity, revenue split 60 different ways numbers can not replace the knowledge and context you get by going to the points of transaction where you customers and front-line people reside.
In my world we reference this as performing check or getting knowledge of the what and why of current performance. There has rarely been a moment when I take an executive to the work and they say “Wow, that isn’t what the report said.” Entrapping technology can do that to you it leads to assumptions and assumptions lead to poor decisions.
If you need to make better decisions (and who doesn’t need that?), go to the work and get knowledge because there are some things you just need to hear and understand that technology can’t give you. Oh and it will save you money too.
Leave me a comment. . . share your opinion! Click on comments below.
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Nice post Tripp. We see a lot of companies buy into “software is the answer” notion to capture the ever important Business Intelligence. Many companies also find that a few months down the road, it’s not the magic pill they had hoped for. True BI requires a specific skill set to analyze and interpret all the data, spreadsheets and reporting that the software spits out. On the CRM team, we have a VP of Analytics and Client Service (aka our Data Rock Star) who provides Business Intelligence for our customers. She and her team interpret all of our customers’ data, have a keen eye to notice red flags and trends to not only pinpoint problem areas but also suggest strategies to improve and enhance business processes. Its the special sauce that software just can’t provide.
Interpretation can not replace knowledge. Executives need context by going to the work.
“better decision-making through more data is ludicrous”
Well there’s one kind of extremism and then there’s another. I agree that data without context is inappropriate, but lack of data, or incomplete data surely leads to poor decisions.
The existence of the SuperWalmart stores you mentioned, and the success of Walmart in general, is due to their organization alignment around data, and the flow of information from stores through the organization and to suppliers. Would the CEO of Walmart be able to manage his multi-billion dollar organization solely through anecdotal reports from Joe store clerk?
Managers should spend time on the front lines. But it’s unrealistic for executives to visit every operation in the company every day. If the did visit a few, it would be undoubtedly useful, but could not represent a complete picture of the business. As such, knowledge gained through on-site visits and departmental visits should become just one part of a complete picture provided by personal experience, aggregated data, and contextual reports by managers and subject matter experts.
Visit http://bibuilders.com/blogs/?p=203 for my full response.
Unfortunately, we have managers who have never done the work or understand the work making decisions about the work using data with no context.
You are right, if they can’t be with the work all the time, how will they make decisions? A report is no substitute for knowledge. These managers should understand that decision-making is better-off with the work and maybe they should stay out of it. BP probably wishes they had.
I don’t like copying so the analogy was the vast divide not what big companies do. This is how big companies become like Rome and fall apart unless of course they are too big to fail.