When you look at how Business Intelligence tools are marketed, you’d think that the secret to a wildly successful operation is to simply have executives sit at their desks looking at beautifully laid out dashboards, clicking here and there on charts, graphs, and gauges, drilling down, rolling up, and slicing and dicing their data. After all, that’s what the vendors of Business Intelligence systems portray in their marketing communications (and we’re guilty of using eye candy in our own materials, too).
I’m the CEO of a Business Intelligence consultancy. Organizing and presenting data in ways that enable business decisions is all that we’ve done for the 15 years since I founded Dataspace. Before that, I did it at MicroStrategy. I’ve, even, co-authored three books on the topic. Of all people, you might expect me to be sitting at my desk, slicing and dicing to my heart’s content. But you know what? I have a business to run. I’ve got to spend my time on attracting new clients, ensuring my team delivers flawlessly, and conduct a variety of back office functions from tracking payables and receivables to minimizing my overhead. And while we have implemented Business Intelligence tools at Dataspace to help me manage my operation, with the data collected, integrated and presented in a manner specific to my needs, I find I actually spend very little time using these systems. And typically for only two purposes: 1) to investigate a particular problem; 2) to check in once a week or so to see whether things are on track. I recently estimated how much time I spend using on these systems, and found I don’t spend more than an hour a week in them.
Do successful managers spend their days clicking around in BI systems? I don’t think so. Successful managers spend their time managing: making decisions and interacting with people – customers, employees, partners, suppliers, etc. Well-designed BI systems quickly give managers a view of what’s going on – of what decisions they need to make and what conversations they need to have. Well-designed BI systems get the answer across quickly and then get out of the way.
I’m proud that I use my system less than 2% of the time. After all, well-designed BI systems enable use of that 2% to identify the decisions that need to be made, and the conversations that need to be had with the other 98%.
Want to discuss? Feel free to contact me at email@example.com.– Ben