It’s always amusing how often I attend an industry conference, regardless of the market, where the industry chiefs gather and I hear the proud bloviating about how good their respective organizations are at using business intelligence as a formula for continuous improvement.
And yet, as I engage a discussion with frontline managers, I consistently see business intelligence as a formula for continuous improvement still discussed as a concept.
The first test of real continuous improvement is easy to measure but hard to implement.
Independent analysis in the hands of the manager on the front line seems simple but this remains a large gap for successful continuous improvement. This core element is still one of the hardest deliverables to put in place.
Do you agree?
If not, then why do so many executive management teams still hold exclusive access to the business intelligence data resources needed to evaluate daily market activities? And by directly or indirectly supporting this bottleneck, they radically slow the ability of the overall enterprise to respond to daily market dynamics.
When the executive team is fully committed to the implementation of independent analysis, these unproductive bottlenecks are pushed aside in favor of continuous improvement starting at the frontline managers of the organization.
Frontline managers need immediate access to every single data silo in the entire organization that contains information to make decisions. And it is more than dressing up your data into nice looking quarterly KPIs.
The quarterly KPIs and many of today’s dashboards are solid measurements but every manager must be empowered with the technology platform, data formatting, queries and structure to dive into any level of the data that triggers the search.
For example, a search may begin when a store manager notices that overall store sales or margin contribution has declined. This triggers a quick look at the performance of every category in the store leading to the apparent problem. For continuous improvement to thrive, the next inquiry can’t be a request to IT to deliver a report that shows up 3 days later or more.
Managers must be empowered to look at every retail category in seconds, see the outlier and drill down to the SKU level or POS data to find the root cause and then make a change that can be tracked to see the result. This is the heart of continuous improvement and the beginning of real corporate accountability.
Another big hurdle in the continuous improvement climb is keeping the process simple. This means engaging a technology & software platform that can harness all the needed data and deliver the search capabilities to every single manager in seconds not days.
If the enterprise attempts to deliver this capability using multiple technology platforms and software programs, failures often occur due to the complexity confronting frontline managers who lack the time to accommodate the rigorous operational requirements.
And the use of multiple technologies increases the likelihood of drastically lower speeds to get the needed answers, more frequent data errors and less reliable insights to managers.
In addition, it should be noted that a truly successful continuous improvement formula doesn’t have to be the most expensive option.
In today’s market, enterprise leaders should look for a cloud based solution that puts actionable intelligence in the hands of every manager, can be delivered with a fixed set up fee and all the maintenance and upgrades incorporated into a basic subscription price. And this formula for continuous improvement should be deliverable in multiple formats so managers can access the data on the fly with tablets, phones or desktops.
The ROI for this approach is easily measured. The technology ensures repeatable and efficient business processes. Decisions made by frontline managers can be tracked and measured so that true accountability is now available to the executive team.
All that remains is for the executive team to implement a compensation package that rewards the results achieved.