How to Recognize When (BI) Business Intelligence Becomes (BI) Business Insanity

Would it surprise anyone if I said the C-Suite globally still loves to use sophisticated language like business intelligence to try and differentiate their dynamic leadership capabilities against the competition and enhance their image with peers?

Some will use the term Business Intelligence as a descriptor of internal capabilities while others use Business Analytics. Which term is right and which term really reflects the true internal operating conditions and capabilities within the organization?

For just a minute, let’s forget the common terms and which is right. For now, let’s identify the common indicators that prove your claim to (BI) Business Intelligence may be spiraling into what I call (BI) Business Insanity.

Timely Data:

The business world we live in is filled to overflowing with data typically located in scattered silos all around the company.  So just having some data available is proof of nothing.

The first test in avoiding business insanity is measuring the timeliness of the data.

Here is the test of timeliness:

As a confident C-Suite leader, can you speak with proven internal verification that every member of your management team is getting actionable data needed to make changes and drive improved business results when it is required? I emphasize “when” it is required.

The sad reality for too many businesses is managers must still ask the IT gatekeepers for specific performance level information beyond the basic weekly, monthly or quarterly metrics and then wait for IT to deliver. This can take hours or days and sometimes weeks.

Is that insanity or what?

If you want real accountability that drives measurable results, managers need immediate access to the whole data set related to their job responsibilities and get it in minutes not hours or days.

They must be able to evaluate multiple timelines of activity, look at SKU level data, evaluate portfolio performance against all promotional activities, and see how their decisions impact sales, volume, and margin.

By accessing data with this capacity, street level managers can quickly identify problems, make real market adjustments and track the results of any changes made. This is the only real metric for measuring timeliness of data. Timeliness is the right data in the hands of the right people, right now!

IT departments who defend their corporate value by being gatekeepers and report dispensaries have failed to truly understand their value proposition.

Problem identification:

Too many executive level management teams are satisfied if market problems are viewed and discussed in a quarterly performance review. While demands for improvements are often made during these mandated sessions, the local manager is still lacking access to the data needed to quickly make real time changes in direction daily, weekly or monthly.

The best performance review is delivered by opening the data silos to every level of management, giving them access to see and make local decisions related to their territory or accounts and then confirming the decisions made by that local manager in fact increased unit volume, grew margin and improved profits.

What does this level of decision making look like? It means a local manager can readily access data such as invoices, cost of goods by SKU, store level shelf sets, volume by account type, store level or territory, unit sales, margin, and profitability over self-selected time periods etc. And these descriptors are just the tip of fully arming local management.

With this approach to accountability, local managers come to quarterly reviews with the facts of real performance already known.  This approach makes the review process less about what is wrong with the manager individually but a mutually constructive training session to help each manager make better decisions and drive better results.

Actionable data in the hands of managers becomes the fuel that drives real behavior change and leads to better corporate results.

Business Intelligence or Insanity?

Does it really matter if we use (BI) Business Intelligence or (BA) Business Analytics or whether we have engaged the right BI vendor to lead the charge?

It is all “Insanity” if management sits on a mountain of data but remain blind and unable to make rapid decisions to market conditions and competitive dynamics. The right data in the hands of street level managers along with the strategic leaders will allow real assessment of what happened historically from the general to the specific across any timeline selected. But it will also allow every decision made today to be measured against future real time results.

Business Insanity is the production of reports for the appearance of value.

Real business intelligence allows managers at all levels to become skilled analysts leading to their own answers, asking their own questions, gaining their own insights and tracking the results of every decision made.

Karl Edmunds

About the Author


Vice President, Salient Management Company

is a nationally recognized business leader and author with more than 20 years of experience working with suppliers, distributors, and retailers in the CPG industry. His focus is aligning technical solutions with sales, marketing, and organizational needs to drive long-term profitable growth.

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