Friday, January 22, 2010

Business Analytics: Questions for Enterprise

Firms today are increasingly seeking competitive advantage through advances in business analytics and decision support systems. According to a white paper published by nGenera (2008) in collaboration with Prof Thomas Davenport:
The next wave of business reengineering is being powered by business analytics, and the potential performance breakthroughs are just as large as they were 15 or so years ago. Many of these breakthroughs will come through the ability to integrate the demand side of the house with the supply side of the house as never before. Even information-rich industries have tended to concentrate on one side or the other. With the power of business analytics, corporations can make and manage the demand-supply connections – a big step closer to the goal of optimizing the performance of the corporation as a whole.

Here are six topical questions (with supporting questions) posed by nGenera for companies seeking to compete analytically:

1. Where should we leverage business analytics?

  • What is our distinctive capability? On what basis do we choose to compete? And how clear and definitive are we about that choice?
  • What performance levels or innovations in this area would blow away the competition?
  • What information, knowledge, and insight would it take to perform that way? What are the biggest unanswered questions and biggest opportunities?
  • How would we act upon that information, knowledge, and insights.

2. Why now?

  • What are our direct competitors doing or attempting with business analytics? Is anyone in our industry jumping ahead in terms of analytical capability?
  • How are analytics changing our competitive landscape? Are we at risk from non-traditional competitors who may use analytics to encroach on our markets?
  • What emerging technologies of information integration and analysis should we be exploring more aggressively?
  • How fast can we launch a serious business analytics initiative? What’s holding us back?

3. What's the payoff?

  • What are our specific performance goals in the area where we choose to compete?
  • How well do we measure them? How might better measurement and analysis of today’s performance reveal tomorrow’s opportunities?
  • How well aligned are the organization, its management, and its stakeholders with these performance goals?
  • What’s our highest ambition? What would it mean in terms of revenue, profit, and market share if we were really to change the basis of competition?

4. What information and technology do we need?

  • Is the information we need at hand? Is the data that support our distinctive capability in one repository, with common definitions of key data elements?
  • Is this data integrated enough not only to be accessible, but also to be manipulated with analytical tools?
  • How completely and accurately does the information measure and represent our distinctive business capability and basis of competition? Is it up-to-date? What are the most glaring gaps and shortfalls?
  • Do we have the technologies in place to support business analytics in this area? Or is technology fragmentation holding us back?

5. What kinds of people do we need?

  • Do we have a critical mass of analytical professionals on staff? Are we prepared to hire them? Do we need to “rent” this talent in the short term to fill gaps?
  • Who can manage analytical professionals? Who has the necessary experience, credibility, and “bridging” skills?
  • Will we be ready to train employees to apply the analytical results and operate differently?
  • Is the organization at large oriented toward analytical decision-making, or is it wedded to yesterday’s procedures and rules of thumb? How quickly can the organization come up to speed analytically?

6. What roles must senior executives play?

  • Are we committed to competing on analytics, starting at the top of the organization? What are the CEO and executive team doing to demonstrate that commitment?
  • Is the leader of the analytical function prepared to act upon the results of the analyses? Are the roles and decision rights of other stakeholders, including the CFO and CIO, clear – especially when their roles are novel or overlap?
  • Do we have a project leader who can span the worlds of strategy, process performance, and analytics?
Reference: Business Analytics: Six Questions To Ask About Information And Competition (2008), Austin, TX: nGenera Corp.

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