Thursday, May 21, 2009

Are we answering the wrong questions?

Lyndsay Wise wrote a good article on about different types of Business Intelligence (BI) and how organizations adopt them based on their level of BI maturity. It reminded me of a recent user group meeting where several people from a Fortune500 company discussed their difficulty managing the ever growing list of sales reports requested by their users. The business users were not finding the answers they were looking for and they hoped that having more reports would help answer their questions. Quantity over quality.

I think this is a reflection of how the evolution of BI has been driven by IT and not Business. This same reason is a common obstacle for BI projects and a contributor to elusive ROI. Looking around it is easy to find many vendors offering "Sales Dashboards". You can get them on a browser with AJAX or Flash, you can get them on your iPhone and even integrate them in your favorite SFA platform or portal. 

This is nice but when you look at the actual reports, they are still pretty basic. These dashboards show charts such as: Revenue and Win Rates Trends, Revenue by Industry/Region/Quarter, Variances over Plan, Count of Deals by Age, etc. These are important questions but companies have been looking at similar reports for the past 20 years. The technical delivery has improved (faster, better, easier) but the actual business content is still lagging.

What would I like to see instead? Well, if I was a sales executive I would be looking for information that can drive action. Something to tell me "what to do" and "what to stop doing" (beyond 'pick up phone and call a Region Manager to ask him why is he/she behind plan'). Knowing that my win rate for last quarter was 25% is fine but I want to know why? What are they key contributing factors? How do I increase it to 30%? 

Technology has had its 15 minutes (years?) in the spotlight. I think it is time to turn our focus on Business. This new focus will drive innovation and will ultimately make companies more effective and more competitive. Of course, I think the solution is Predictive Analytics and I will explain why in a future post.

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