Missed Opportunities: Changing the Way You Think About BI Can Open up a World of “Easy Wins”

Verdant is one of our PLM Preferred Sponsors of the 2014 Oracle Value Chain Summit. Attending the Summit? Be sure to visit Verdant at Booth #104 and learn more about Verdant's expertise in the blog below, authored by Wes Frierson, Partner and Chief Strategy Officer, Verdant.


As least as far as Enterprise software goes, dashboards can be pretty sexy stuff.  What else gets your colleagues and management as excited as some gorgeous dashboards? Taking a complex tangle of information, transforming it, then exposing it in bite-size chunks that you can actually get your arms around—who could argue with that value? That’s why those dashboards are the “poster children” for Business Intelligence value.

But for all the obvious “in-your-face” value these analytics demonstrate, there is a less obvious–but equally valuable—application of Business Intelligence that people have a much more difficult time seeing. When starting work with new clients, we see time and again situations where big opportunities to use BI-based solutions to problems are being missed. What are these companies doing wrong? The issue can be boiled down to the narrow way in which these technologies inside these companies. Broadening the way you apply BI tools (and broadening the types of problems you attack with them) can add immense value to your business and your PLM investment.  Here are a few things we talk about with our customers to help teach them how find these easy wins.

Don’t look for reports. Look for business problems

Ok, it’s a cliché, but I’ll start with it because it’s a bad habit that plays out every single day. Many opportunities are missed because people just don’t see certain things as “reporting issues.” I would be surprised if I said the words, “Could that be an integrated report?” anything less than 200 times last year as we talked through pain points and solutions with customers. And, in all but a handful of cases, that was indeed the best answer or at least the most practical answer to the issue. But, in each case, leveraging a BI-based solution had not been considered because the projected solution had already been cast as “an integration,” “a product gap,” or “a custom app.”

So many business issues and adoption pains are really about visibility when you get down to it—and that is what BI does best. The trick is throwing away the traditional bias about where and how you apply these tools. Sometime it’s an issue of not knowing what these tools can really do (past the standard stuff); more often it’s just not considering the more “creative” ways of applying these powerful technologies. Once people get the hang of solving problems this way, they quickly re-orient themselves and see opportunity everywhere!

Don’t wait

We’re fortunate to get the opportunity to advise a lot of customers on their PLM roadmaps to help them get value as quickly as possible. Often—as a start—they will show us their current plans. About 80% of the time, the plan has pushed much of the reporting or analytics needs later in the plan (and often as its own independent “follow-on” phase). The conventional wisdom seems to be, “Once we get done deploying a bunch of this stuff, then we can figure out what we want to pull out.” This is big mistake.

BI should not be some separate set of activities and requirements and definitely should not be deferred until the end. Not only does it postpone value unnecessarily, lack of investment in reporting and analytics early on creates a “value gap” for users that slows adoption. Your users want to see a “give and take” when they are asked to adopt new software solutions. Putting off investment in BI often leaves people feeling like they are being asked to do a lot of new things without a lot of visible payoff.

Make it seamless

Ideally, reporting should embedded, contextual (“1-click”), and invisible wherever possible. The idea that you go somewhere and “run a report” is antiquated and part of what limits the potential and appeal of these solutions. Sometimes the most valuable solutions we deliver are not seen as “reporting” by users. They often mistake them as customizations to the core application. It’s just an answer to a problem, and if designed properly it should be a totally natural extension to what they are doing.

“Thinking small” should be part of your BI strategy

These BI-based solutions don’t have to be large, or complex, or solve 50 different problems. They simply need to link an idea, fill a gap, provide context, show an insight, etc. I’ve seen very powerful BI output that simply pop up in HTML and contain about 6 pieces of information. While simple, the solution brought a critical piece of context from another system in a single click. When deployed, everyone immediately saw that this solution made perfect sense, but they had suffered with nothing for years because the business issue was initially categorized as “an integration need” and deferred. By thinking about the problem differently, it was solved in a day or so and at very low cost (with tools they already had in house).

Final Thought

So many issues are put off, lived with, or worked around when the answer is often pretty straightforward (if you change your point of view just a few degrees). We work with customers on a range of needs throughout the lifecycle of their software investments, and I can tell you that the effort and money spent on BI are often the most valuable. Seldom can you draw a line between the investment and the value as clearly as you can with a single BI asset. We’ve seen BI-driven solutions—some that take as little as a day to develop—turn whole business processes upside-down (in a good way!).

Come by the Verdant booth at OVCS (#104 in the PLM User Experience Area) and talk to us about PLM, Business Intelligence, Super Bowl commercials, or whatever else is on your mind. The Verdant Team and I would love to talk to you about your business.

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