If you were a pilot would you be willing to fly into clouds with inadequate data and instruments just hoping you won't run into an obstacle? Of course you wouldn’t.
Yet flying blind is what many senior leaders are essentially doing. Do you know where all of your critical KPIs are right now? What is the state of the key explicit assumptions underlying your plan? How about critical implied assumptions? How old is the data? Are you managing out of the rear view mirror?
Do you really have access to critical data that enables you to adroitly lead thru a highly dynamic, potentially high risk environment?
Chances are that the answer to these questions is “No, not really”. If you are in this situation you know that your ability to anticipate and manage risk is compromised. Similarly, you may miss opportunities.
Do you share some of the concerns that we hear from senior leaders?
“We don’t have a reliable and clear view of business performance”
“We don’t have the full picture”
“We are often flying blind”
“Reports are inconsistent”
“Lack of timely information results in missed opportunities”
“I wonder how much risk we have that could be better managed if we had better information”
“We know what we want but don’t know how to make it happen”
“Reports are inconsistent and complicated”
“We have too much data and not enough actionable information”
Sadly, the data to enable early recognition of issues and opportunities is most likely buried somewhere in your company’s databases. Back in the day, pre-COVID, inertia within markets and within organizations allowed many leaders to get along without knowing what was going on in their respective businesses at any point in time. Success often masked problems and obscured new opportunities.
For most of us, those days are gone. Unless you are prescient, it is difficult to visualize the future confidently. How will your customers change? Can you trust your supply chains? How will sales and distribution costs likely change? What will your competitors do? What are your most significant risks? What are your most attractive opportunities? For most leaders, the list of critical questions is extensive. Often, there are no answers, only guesstimates.
Why does this situation exist? As big data and AI become well entrenched concepts and companies are investing in tools, why are meaningful results so elusive?
The answer is that “this is hard stuff.” The data needed is often disbursed in a wide array of silos and is a mix of structured and unstructured. The challenges involved with driving solutions are most often assigned to IT and IT managers are busy sourcing data scientists and analysts who are in short supply. Indeed, providing desired results to “C” level execs can be a technical challenge. However, the most important part of the solution is having the business expertise to identify what answers might be critical.
“How”, “why” and “what” questions have to come first. These get harder as the complexity of the business grows. All too often the solution presented to senior leaders is reams of spreadsheet data repackaged into pretty graphics. If the goal is to have information readily internalized, the presentation is super critical, and design must involve a talented UI expert.
Ask yourself what information you would like to see right now about what is happening in your business? What would your top 10 or 20 questions be? How many of these questions can you answer easily? What would it be worth to be able to answer all of them?