Executives Say “Show Me the Numbers”
Rare is the organization that embraces information as an asset where the executives are not personal stakeholders and deep purveyors of organization information.
The business demand for intelligent answers to tough questions continues to expand at a near exponential pace. Leaders talk about bigger data and deeper analytics. The demand from all levels has produced real analytic efforts driven by real information needs. However, executives must ask themselves if they are driving business intelligence to get all they can for their personal, as well as organizational, objectives.
There is more to driving than standing on the corner giving directions. As author Ken Kesey said, “You don’t lead by pointing and telling people some place to go. You lead by going to that place and making a case.” Being a driver of information means sitting in the driver’s seat and giving it a spin.
Here are some questions executives can ask themselves about their use of information.
- How often do I use my organization’s BI and analytics to inform my decisions?
- How often do I demand new information or analysis to address a new problem or business question I am facing?
- How well do I understand the data that that I am seeing?
- How well is the data that I see represented?
- Can I trust the data I am seeing?
If the answers are “infrequently”, “poor”, “low”, etc., there are activities you can do to drive BI and analytics towards an executive focus – and to the betterment of the company. Here are three activities you can do to be testing the waters of BI harder yourself and finding ways to embrace BI as a business strategy.
1. Communicate your needs.
Analysts and information professionals gain great satisfaction in knowing that their work is contributing to the greater good and profitability of their companies. They like to know that the reports and analysis they produce are being utilized to make important decisions and create better outcomes. If they know the analysis they are working on is going to straight to the top to help make a critical executive decision, they will do backflips to serve that need.
You may also personally experience the shortcomings in that process and be able to influence direction better.
2. Command explanations.
Part of the critical path to BI success is the business user understanding what the numbers mean. If you do not understand to a meaningful extent the analysis you are seeing and how it impacts what the business is doing, then it might as well be Greek to you.
In one organization, there was a very effective and well-respected leader. He never finished high school. However in Board meetings when the Finance department would come in and drop a ream of paper on the table full of data, he was the smartest person in the room. How? He was passionately curious about that data. He poured over it. He asked questions. He wanted to know what he was seeing.
The point is he understood the data at a deep level, and he leveraged that understanding to make great decisions.
Be curious about the analysis you see. Ask questions about the reports on your desk. Get explanations to understand how the data come together.
3. Commandeer focus
As a leader in your organization, you drive the business. Leverage this authority to focus some BI efforts directly towards your specific needs. Your business units and line-managers are all demanding custom reports and analysis, so why can’t you? If there is a specific question you are trying to answer or a situation you are trying to understand, ask for analysis on it.
By asking directly, you will understand what you are seeing better and how to connect the data with the decision that needs to be made. Also by setting that tone at the top, you will inspire other leaders and managers to make smarter, data-driven decisions as well, something proven to drive business to new heights.
“Show me the numbers” is how to get the most of your company’s BI efforts and should influence or drive decision making for executives.
Disclaimer: This post was brought to you by IBM for Midsize Business and opinions are my own. To read more on this topic, visit IBM’s Midsize Insider. Dedicated to providing businesses with expertise, solutions and tools that are specific to small and midsized companies, the Midsize Business program provides businesses with the materials and knowledge they need to become engines of a smarter planet.