An era of diminishing returns: why no one needs a new BI solution

September 1, 2023
Tom Cangelosi 

Technological innovation will continue to drive the scientific, educational, and business communities forward. There are times when the pure act of innovation allows subsequent applications of a new technology beyond what was originally anticipated. The US Space Program is a classic example of this. CPU processing power and digital storage improvements have launched “Big Data” and “Artificial Intelligence” industries. Visual Display improvements have set the stage for ultra-realistic images to be displayed. Business Intelligence (BI) can do so many things today.

So What? Who Cares?

So, what does this mean for most business owners, executives, and managers?  Do slicker graphics help in understanding the numbers?  Does it allow for insight into how the organization is performing?  Is processing 12 years’ worth of data more helpful than looking at 3 years? Is there additional insight gained by including data from outside the organization beyond a sales forecast? And if there is insight gained, how do you turn that insight into something that helps a company improve?  If you can’t, your BI is nothing more than a fancy “Tick Me Off” report. None of us need a fancier version of something that yields little impact. 

Multiplicity was only a Movie

Very few of us have extra time in our days to review every aspect of our business. If only we could clone ourselves and our top employees.  Organizations have had to become leaner, which usually translates into getting more done with less, but becoming more efficient and more effective, typically through some degree of automation. 

This is accomplished by setting priorities, and focusing on the measurements that relate to areas that are truly impactful within your organization. Once these priorities are established, goals need to be set for areas that can be effectively measured. Then the focus should be on areas where the organization is falling short of their goals.

Active Management by Exception

Management by Exception can be implemented in an Active or Passive mode. The Active mode allows issues to be uncovered and potentially mitigated earlier. For this to be effective, the cause of the exception and the steps that need to be taken to correct it need to be part of the analysis. Ideally, this information should be shared with the team members directly involved, empowering them to react to the issue, in accordance with guidelines.  We don’t need managers analyzing statistics. Their time should be spent on more important activities.

What Do We All Really Need?

What we all really need are business tools that are easy to consume, that identify exceptions, and that do not just show us the reasons for the exceptions, but also suggest what can be done to improve performance. It’s not enough to simply be notified that sales are down. Until you are pointed to the salesperson, customer, and products that are part of this decline, the typical response is simply “we need to do better”. Knowing that a particular customer has apparently moved purchases of a particular product line elsewhere is important information for the salesperson who handles them. 

Having tools to notify both management and the team or people that can effectuate change is critical.  It is also important to be notified about the trend early in the cycle (but also not too early), because we can’t change the past.

We don’t need flashy dashboards or more detailed statistics to add to the mix. We need tools that will reach further into our organization, to report on key metrics, and guide our teams to make improvement.  

Tom Cangelosi
A graduate of the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, Tom has 40 years of experience with system implementations in the manufacturing and distribution industries. In a career that began with Andersen Consulting (now Accenture), Tom has blended business and technical skills to create a practical consulting...
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