Making Time For The Future

Time acts like money: we have to invest a little up front to get much more of it down the road.  The initial time investment involves paper, pencil and some brainstorming.  We build on this investment with a little bit of research and use the research results to start building a case for stopping things that no longer provide the value they once did.  As we stop doing some things we make time for building a better future.

Paper, Pencil and Brainstorming

Let us start the brainstorming session with a simple question: “What keeps us busy every day?” The answer should not be a detailed list of every report the department produces, nor of every research project being conducted.  Rather the goal here is to identify where the big chunks of time are going, yet with enough detail so that we can later group our thoughts in meaningful ways.  Some meaningful groupings might be:

  • by department
  • by brand
  • by budget line item
  • by the type of data being used
  • by cost
  • by the amount of effort involved.

We may want to start with any or all of these bullets to get the brainstorm going.  However, since we are in the process of trying to find TIME for the future, we eventually want to focus on the EFFORT involved.

A Little Bit Of Research

Since perceptions can be deceiving, we need to validate our impressions.  At this stage we need to explore whether individual projects really consume as much time as we think they do.  This is also a good place to ask whether something still is being used or whether it has the same importance it once did.  Some of the more tricky items to review are all the “favors” that we inevitably do for others. At this stage of the game we are trying to:

  • verify how much effort is required
  • look for low hanging fruit
  • search for items that promise big returns.

With some projects it will be obvious that they are important and need to get done, yet we can always explore whether they can be done faster and more efficiently.  Options include finding new technology, outsourcing, procuring the co-operation of other departments or hiring someone with more appropriate skills.

For other projects it will be just as obvious that they can be stopped or reduced in size. For everything else, we need the next step.

Building A Case For Stopping Things

Chances are good that eventually we will have picked all the low hanging fruit. Budget constraints, changing business priorities and additional demands may make it necessary to cut back on existing services. And of course, we are still looking to find time for the future!

At this stage we have to weigh the benefits of one project against those of another.  We have to weigh the impact each project has on the company overall and we have to parse perceived need from real need.  Key questions to ask include:

  • How does this make you more effective?
  • How does it help you make better business decisions?
  • How would it hurt your effectiveness if the information was updated less frequently?
  • Without this information, how would you get your job done?

Notice that these questions do not allow for “yes” or “no” answers.  They are the starting point for exploring the true value of something that is perceived as a needed service.  Only if we and our information customers explore these questions, can we determine whether other options are available or whether the need is as great as we initially thought.

Building a case takes time and effort – and if we reach this stage, we should also weigh the needs of our own department and not just the needs of those we support.  To effectively support our information clients we need to also look at how our own service offering needs to evolve to meet changing needs.

Needing Time For The Future

Successful business information managers constantly engage in their own form of R&D, researching and developing solutions that provide timely and accurate information on which to base profitable business decisions.  To meet future demands it is vital that BI managers

  • Develop expertise with relevant business issues
  • Follow market trends
  • Learn about new data sources
  • Explore new technologies

To be able to do these things, BI managers need to find time in their schedule – or better yet,  they need to make time for the future.  The tips outlined here should provide a good starting point.

This is the first in a three-part series of articles looking at Three Steps To A Better BI Future.  In the next article we will take a look at how to meet increasing demands without simply doing more work.

The three articles in the series are:

Comments are closed.