Sunday, October 19, 2008

Blogs are like Sharks

I know, the title seems irrelevant and in a way it is. However its message of permanence is powerful; if nothing else because it can be interpreted a thousand ways, most of them being fallacies.
If you are reading this, you, as myself, could not resist the urge of getting more acquainted with the topic, so let me spend a few lines to explain how I came to be with this irrelevant topic. Last week I had the opportunity to be in a class where we were exploring better ways of communicating with clients. We were looking for that Holy Grail that would allow us to differentiate from the pack and be most effective with our communication strategy. One of the exercises consisted in looking at a slide and brainstorming on how to make the message more effective. One of the slides had the title “Blogs are like Sharks”, the supporting arguments were arguable weak, but the concept was powerful enough for not one in audience to even question the title. Everybody went in with the assumption the metaphor was correct and came up with different charts to support the concept. Most of the teams, guess what, came up with a chart with both a blog and a shark and try to make concept work by repeating some of the arguments of the original slide. I was one the only one in my team who challenged the concept itself and I did not get any supporters. Everybody was so excited about the task at hand that forgot to validate if the principle under which they were working was accurate at all.
Lesson learned; don’t let this happen to you. A Business Intelligence project is only valuable if it is pursuing a worthy goal. At the end, the proper execution of the project does not matter if the business case that was used to justify the project was flawed. Don’t let the sea of emotions carry you if you do not believe where you are going. It does not matter how fast you get there if you get to the wrong place.
So, my readers, how is a blog like a shark? That is a good question to ponder at night when the moon is high and your project deliverable is due the next day. If you find a good answer let me know, there is always a shark appearing in a blog somewhere in the world...

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Harness the power of the light bulb effect!

Most of us have heard the story of the light bulb effect, but if you have not, put attention to the next few lines: "A company was trying to determine which light bulb wattage could produce the better productivity for their workers. The project team base lined productivity using a standard 60 watt bulb and replaced it with a 75 watts; when they measured productivity again they were gladly surprised that workers were performing better, only 15 watts had made a difference in the outcome of many of the factory tasks. As management saw things were improving, they decided to try a 100 watts bulb, results were even more impressive which seemed to indicate the higher the wattage, the higher the workers productivity. One of the line managers was not entirely convinced with the idea and asked the team conducting the experiment if they could return to a 60 watts bulb instead of increasing to 125 watts to see if productivity would indeed go back to the original levels. Surprise, surprise, after returning to the original bulb wattage, productivity did not decrease to the original levels but increased even more. The team leading the experiment was perplexed, until they met with the line manager who was able to shine some light in the matter: "Every time the workers find out that there is a special task force team that will be implementing strategic changes in the factory, they tend to perform better, as they know people will notice the difference. As such every changed provided the workers an incentive to focus and work harder on their jobs. The workers did not even notice that it was the light bulbs wattage that changed, as this made little difference during the day, but they noticed that a special task force was walking the halls and watching them closely."
So, many of you will say, How is this relevant for the Business Intelligence industry…
Implementing a Business Intelligence project is like having a special task force walking the halls of the factory. Your company might experience a significant boom in productivity, just because you are able to measure things and people can focus on specific business problems. If you can harness this power, you can improve almost any process in the organization to the degree of helping your company improve the bottom line with the power of information.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Transforming your organization from the inside-out

Dear readers,
I know it has been a while since my last posting, but that is a good sign; it means that the Business Intelligence industry is still alive out there, even in these uncertain times.
So, what is the occasion then? Well, if you have not guessed by the title, let me give me you another tip. It is time for change! When things are working well and companies are making money, nobody wants to disturb the status-quo - If ain't broken, why fix it mentality - Now is the perfect occasion to prepare your organization not only for survival, but to come ahead of the competition. The door is Business transformation, the key is business intelligence and the road, well that is what this article is supposed to shed some light into.
First things first, why do I suggest the change has to come from the inside-out, isn’t it easier for an external party to come and put things in order? The answer is no, a third party might be able to asses, recommend and define best practices/guidelines, but real change only comes from within. No external agent can navigate a complex organization, better than the people who are the organization. Partners are of great help, as they bring a perspective that will likely be different from your own, they can help you penetrate organizational barriers, and ask the hard questions, but ultimately it is the local who will need to make sure those recommendations are ultimately implemented.
This being said, where should you start? Well, no change will happen if it is not aligned to the organizational strategy. Do some soul searching within your organization to remember what upper management is trying to do, and brainstorm how your Business Intelligence can support that vision. Take one strategy, and decompose it in its basic elements, then ask yourself a simple question: How can Information support each of these tasks? , who are the personas who will leverage this information within the organization to take action? , what elements of the vision exist today? If I were to continue building the track, what would be the next section?
These questions will help you get the information you need to get better aligned to the business strategy and through this journey, become a strategic partner with the business, as you will start anticipating, and eventually guiding, what are the projects the business needs. Having a business roadmap of solution domains will also provide you the tools to perform an impact assessment to the existing BI infrastructure; and as such, it will help you determine the internal initiatives that are needed to keep-up with the business demands.
If you follow this path, before you know it, you will be driving change from the inside-out becoming a strategic influencer in the organization, who can help your company navigate wild waters and prepare the ship for speed once calm returns. Bon Voyage!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The future of Innovation in Business Intelligence

Dear readers,

Historically the best times for innovation have been times of great conflict: World Wide War 1 & 2, Cold War, etc. The same can be said of Business Intelligence, it is during times of economic deceleration that we are start seeing more innovations in the field as the companies try to get any competitive advantage they can over their competition.
The last time we saw something similar was during the 2001 recession, now almost seven years later, we are again in uncertain times for the global economy with oil prices climbing, the dollar falling and inflation pressures at all time high. While in 2001 we saw a strong paradigm shift from text based report to graphical dashboards, the wind today is blowing in a different direction. 2008 presents a climate that favors mergers, as companies try relentlessly to reduce costs. The BI industry has not been immune to this trend as we have been big fish eat the smaller (and sometimes more juicy) fish.
So, what’s does this mean? Are we in the proper time to see innovations? Or are the entrepreneurial companies under economic pressure cashing out and selling to the big software players?
The answer (as always) is two fold: yes, we are seeing a trend where the smaller (and more innovative) companies are being acquired by big software conglomerates that are trying to make a profit, but also we are seeing a major shift from BI Reporting and Analysis into Actionable Insights.
While it is certainly true that when a big company acquires a smaller vendor, they shift resources from innovation into integration with the bigger platform, we are also seeing an investment (primarily from system integrators) to wire the BI applications into the organizational core processes by making it easier to act on the information provided. (E.g. A CPG company was able analyze the results of a product introduction campaign in almost real time, but it took more than two weeks to make this information actionable by correlating it to how the product was priced for each market. By enabling the flow of the information between the BI platform and pricing systems, changes can be made in days, as they bypass the traditional interdepartmental communication barriers.)
Most of these solutions are sold in bundles, including services and software, giving the companies a true solution to a business problem, rather than just technical pieces. However be aware of the big software vendors that include out-the-shelf software (that btw was just recently acquired from another company) with their consulting services at a much reduced price. This practice channels most of the revenue away from product development and into their services department; effectively reducing even more the resources spent in research and development to incorporate new features in the BI platform.
In summary, these are times of great change for the BI industry and as such present unique opportunities for innovation and mindset changes. What happens next? That, my readers is up to us and decisions we make.

Noe Gutierrez

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Global Landscape and Business Intelligence

Dear Readers,

While it has been a while since my last posting, I have not been idle. I have been heavily immersed in Global BI Implementations. During this time I have gathered enough evidence that the world is not really flat, but rather heavily interconnected. Picture a big Swiss cheese with holes all over its surface, it you drop a small ball in one the holes, you do not on which side of the cheese it is going to come out. A few years back, the world was more isolated, events could be contained within borders and bad or good economic decisions usually favored a few. Today this is no longer the case, with the growth of global companies and brands, multinationals now have direct influence of global commodities prices and control over local markets in dozen of countries.
Business Intelligence is enabling this trend by providing global consolidated information, and thus allowing companies to make local market decisions from a centralized corporate location that might be thousand of miles away. With the right information strategy and metrics, previously disparate markets can be now be compared side to side and position to compete with each other, shifting power from mature to development markets where growth becomes the main driver.
This trend will accelerate and continue as companies continue to look for the best talent at the best price and international boundaries become less relevant as global information flows freely through data networks.
In my next posting I will outline the challenges that Global BI implementations face and some strategies on how to address them.

Noe Gutierrez

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

In the beginning...

Dear Readers,

Before I officially start posting to the Blog, please go through some of my publications. I will make reference to them as I post additional information on this forum.

Feel free to email me with questions & comments if you would like for any specific topic to be discussed here. Also, I would like to remind the reader that all postings are my point of view and do not represent any endorsement from my employer or my current clients. All characters that will be portrayed on this blog are fictional and they do not have any connection to real people unless explicitly said so,

Thanks for reading this forum,

Noe Gutierrez