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!