BI: Is it about the tools or managers who use them?

image A new breed of manager is emerging to manage information. CIO teams who have provided BI tools to business departments are trending to use BI more strategically. Once a BI data warehouse and reporting platform is in place, if it integrates well with with Finance, CEO’s become quickly tuned in to the value of having reliable information to share to get momentum.

We all know as a team player being quick to score is important. But we also know the real game is played in the coaches’ box, where they have a full view. Here they have an ability to understand the total competitive state to plan tactics and execute plays. Being up to date and confident with good intelligence, as the runners bring back the field detail they can’t see, means they can control the game to win by handling things well as they happen.

With constant change being now such a part of life and post recession dynamics to contend with, the question is, ‘How do managers and coaches in business keep abreast of all this in a “win or die culture”. Like the game; those with a blend of strategic and tactical skills who have access to reliable business intelligence information are surviving well in the markets that no longer take prisoners.

My attention was raised on this subject by a question put David Brown, a business leader now living in Europe, as he talked of his real life experience in Asia; “Do today’s Managers have the skills to adapt to the current Economic Climate?”

His observation was that many in business still draw a blank when confronted by process metrics. A past CIO himself and now mentor, when speaking with CIO leaders his example highlights a concern about managers who don’t understand the value-add steps and risk that must be controlled to ensure money-in turns into more money-out.


clip_image002I was constantly surprised by the lack of their knowledge of the tools that could help them better manage their Business. In one of my presentations at a Microsoft Seminar to CIO’s I used an example of an end-to-end process, “Cash-to-Cash”; and how the process could be decomposed into lower level processes allowing performance metrics to be applied to better manage their Working Capital. But I could see from the look on their faces that they did not understand and would not be able to communicate this approach to their Companies Management Team.

I repeated this presentation at a CIO Magazine event, where I was a keynote speaker, and once again could see a lot of blank looks on the audiences faces

                                                                         …. David Brown, Biz Performance

This got got me wondering if it is really is about knowing the tools or if it also about the focus of the managers who use them.

To most a Business Information (BI) specialist means the guy who takes care of the data and the systems that reports it.  And CIO’s, who often wear 2 hats do those jobs plus a whole lot more on technical infrastructure when IT is not separated out as a function.

On the other hand a Business Intelligence specialist (also BI), is the person who makes use of the data value to promote action to grow the business.  There is the dilemma as that person, who understands the outcomes and how to use and mange with information, lives in the business or in Finance.

Many CIO’s now recognize this BI Dilemma and when looking for for BI solutions they don’t just go to a BI Vendor for the answer. They are actually taking a more end to end approach by restructuring to blend with high end business teams to separate BI from the technical side. As they do they are also finding more demand for their time as BI redefines itself to focus on the information value to get and maintain that business momentum.

With this higher value by aligning business and IT to create intelligence centers, companies are now seeing the CIO move back more to coaches’ box. This is also seeing them reduce their time playing go fetch.

5 thoughts on “BI: Is it about the tools or managers who use them?


    In keeping with the theme of this post I just got a note from Steve Bennet about a Business intelligence job going at News Corporation.

    It is a new function there where they say the sky is the limit.

    Steve is the National Information Manager at News Corporation and is no newcomer to business intelligence himself. As someone who has been in strategic and sharp ends of BI and IT since its inception he has also kept company with heavy weights like Howard Dresser and other such notables as a fellow Gartner Guru based in Europe and North America.

    In Australia now based on Sydney he heads up the information function of this Media giant Newscorp, to spearhead and mentor its competitive performance now and ongoing.

    Such job that he is now offering were not about even 5 years ago and especially to work for someone with experience and depth of understanding as Steve and with a leader track record to use information to make it happen. In the past such jobs would have been posted under planning and would have reported to planning manager. The emphasis and difference now is that business intelligence is about information and driving the business with both strategic and tactical analysis to give planning real teeth.

    Here are leader points is the job specification

    1. Inspire those around you by excelling at the exploitation of information. Make it a core competitive capability of News.

    2. Create the national information strategy and the infrastructure that is going to drive performance over the coming years.

    3. Mentor national projects enhancing News Limited’s information management capability and ensuring the usefulness of information.

    4. Enhance and maintain our national business analysis capability through highly structured thinking with a solution focus.
    The substance of his note tells its own story about the responsibility for information and how it is used doesn’t it?

    If you fancy a shot at it give him a call. If I were a just few years younger I might have done too.

  2. Thanks for the plug and keep up the good work. Being new to Blogging I find it encouraging to learn that there is a support network of like minded people out there on the web.

  3. Hm ! Interesting spin. I wonder what the purists may say?

    It seems BI is actually not about systems, but about getting an edge by finding a way look thru the slurry to find the gold.

    An informatiion approach may be about managing data to getting it all on one place. But without any plan ow to use it, that can be worse than leaving it all over the place in the organisation. An intelligent approach sees people using the informational value of data to manage performance.

    Value also differs: For example Insurance and Credit card companies use BI to manage risk; Retailers use BI to predict customer behaviour and Phone companies use BI for loyalty management. In many cases these mature BI users stiil call it data mining.

    it seems is not all just about having a single source of data all stored in one place. but more about having a continued abiltity to create reliable access to mine lots of information that many be stored once in more than place.

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