A new class of software enables enterprises to tie together disparate sources of business data, and review any or all the characteristics of their business as they change, in real-time. It’s a sea of charts at anyone’s fingertips. Some Business Analytics (BA) software vendors say it’s just like browsing. But is that really the intent: to let operations managers browse the charts like everyday folks browse the Web, discovering ups and downs at their leisure? How would this practice lend itself to distilling from the sea of charts any modicum of meaningful information that an analyst can use to describe the business?
Assume for a moment that you can measure everything about your organization. If, for some reason, it can be measured, it is being measured. How quickly do employees exit the building when their shifts end? Of the customer support calls your organization receives, how many are elevated to the third level when the second level doesn’t come to a resolution? What is the bandwidth your Internet users consume during their lunch breaks versus their work hours? When the customer service staff was given new, brighter uniforms, did their sales rise in turn? How many words does the CEO say during the elevator ride up in the morning when she’s confident her new telecommuting policy is working, versus how many when productivity turns downward? How many cockroaches run around in the foundation of your headquarters building after midnight?
Tableau Server for iPad. Image courtesy Tableau Software
Even in an imaginary world of infinite measurement, you can assume that certain aspects of your business that may be quantifiable may not be valuable. In other words, they don’t tell you anything you really need to know. So you reduce the problem set in your mind. Certainly the bit with the cockroaches is frivolous. Maybe you don’t need to know about the impact of those new uniforms. Counting the verbiage from the CEO’s mouth may only serve to confirm pre-existing suspicions rather than demonstrate a viable theory. Perhaps it’s a bit creepy to be spying on employees’ Web surfing habits. The problem set becomes finite.
Are you excluding something that may be key to your organization? How do you know for certain that something seemingly frivolous may be the quintessential factor that spells success or failure? And just as importantly, are you sure you’re the right person to make that judgment?
Scott M. Fulton, III has chronicled the history of computing as it happened, from the unveiling of the Apple III to the undoing of MS-DOS to the rise of the cloud. Scott was one of the original online managers of the Delphi network (you remember modems, don’t you?), part of the original editorial team of Computer Shopper (you remember paper, don’t you?), the Senior News Editor at Tom’s Hardware and the original TG Daily (you remember... never mind), and for four years served as managing editor of Betanews. He’s the author of 17 books and over 5,000 articles printed worldwide in multiple languages. Scott also appears as contributing technology analyst on NTN24’s Ciencia, Salud y Tecnología. So basically, he has at least one finger in just about every medium, in hopes that maybe one of them will take root and bear fruit. You never know, something could happen. His fingers are crossed. (Which could explain the typing problems.) While he’s waiting, Scott and his wife Jennifer, herself a best-selling author (where do you think he gets it?), run Ingenus, LLC, an editorial services provider for technology and higher education publishers. Right now, their daughter is probably on Tumblr telling her friends how Dad keeps finding something new to go wrong with his VCR. You can follow Scott on Twitter at @SMFulton3.
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