I recently read an interesting article about how the UK police have set up an IT company, which has the remit to drive down IT cost whilst increasing IT innovation. This sounds sensible at first glance—after all, who wouldn’t want to drive down the cost of IT, right? Well, I think they’re missing something far more fundamental.
So often organizations focus on implementing IT as cheaply as possible and it appears that this is the objective of the UK Police Force. Whilst value for money is always important, a more important question should be “What problem are you trying to solve?” Unless you fully explore the problem, you’ll have no idea of whether IT is the best solution.
New IT isn’t always the most appropriate way to solve a problem. The UK police force should know this; they recently spent £71 million on blackberry devices and achieved a woeful return on their investment. They had hoped to save £125 million by enabling officers to complete routine paperwork whilst out on the street. It appears they had not fully understood the business problem, and as a result saved only £600,000 (a fraction of the implementation cost), with some police officers reporting that the devices meant that they had to spend more time on administration. A real own-goal!
I don’t know about you, but I’ve done a fair amount of business travelling. Early on in my career, I learnt the importance of chatting and building rapport with the check-in staff on hotel reception desks. These are the people that will help you out and (hopefully) be able to arrange for any problems to be resolved during your stay. I’m always amazed at the lengths hotel staff will go to if you ask them for help.
I was recently staying in a hotel near Cambridge, and I needed to iron my shirt for a meeting the next day. There was no iron in the room, so I wandered down to reception to speak to the chirpy receptionist who I’d chatted to when checking in. The conversation went something like this. We’ll call the receptionist “Tom” (this wasn’t his real name):
Tom: Hi again sir, how can I help?
Adrian: Hi Tom. I need a favour.. do you have an iron I can borrow? I need to press a shirt ready for a meeting tomorrow.
Tom: Sure, let me get one for you. OK, you have iron number 5A, I’ll sign it out for you… just return it when you’re ready.
Adrian: Excellent, thanks.
Tom then handed me the iron. Excellent, I thought, and I start heading back up to the room. But something’s missing here…. I have an iron…. It was late and my brain was frazzled…. What was missing? And then it hits me. I don’t have an ironing board!
It’s a difficult and crowded market place out there. Customers are more and more demanding and have unprecedented access to information about your industry and your competitors via the Internet. In fact, a recent study showed 12% of the US population refer to social media before making a purchase. In many industries it’s easy and cost-free for customers to switch supplier if they’re not satisfied, which raises the stakes of getting it right: On time, first time.
I recently saw an interesting video on the ‘Internet Evolution’ website where Michael McClurg describes how midsize businesses can surmount these challenges by giving their customers access to more information. He talked about enabling customers to see the progress of their order as it progresses, and in doing so giving customers a sense of empowerment.
I’m sure we’ve all experienced situations where we’re waiting for a delayed order, and we have no idea when it’s going to arrive. There may be an extremely good reason for its delay, but we’re completely unaware. It feels like we’re inside an informational vacuum. When the product finally does arrive we resolve never to use that company again!
Providing customers with information to manage their expectations is nothing new, but Michael’s point resonated with me. In the past it may have been seen as “best practice” that only large companies or new and nimble online companies could implement. This is no longer the case; customers are expecting this transparency for small and mid-size companies too, whether they have ordered their products online or offline. What’s more, customers want to access this information on their terms, wherever and whenever is convenient to them.
This creates a particular challenge for successful mid-size companies. Organisations that may have grown over many years, with complex business processes that have evolved rather than been designed. How can organisations adapt and avoid becoming “dinosaur” companies that are side-lined and left behind?
Data is a main artery of modern organisations. In a volatile and rapidly changing environment, it is those organisations that can assess their progress against their goals and change course quickly that are likely to succeed. To track progress and make quality decisions, you need high quality information and data.
I recently saw an interesting case study and video on Phil Simon’s blog. The case study relates to a US based pizza chain “Papa Gino’s” and describes how the senior management team recognised the importance of data and implemented a business analytic solution. They made significant progress – being able to much better understand their business, the success of their marketing campaigns, and their customers. Now, I’ve never worked in a pizza restaurant, so why was I so interested you may ask? The case study may have been related to pizzas, but the underlying learning points could equally apply to a tech company, insurance providers, car manufacturers or any other business of just about any size. I’m yet to come across a business that doesn’t create, use or rely on some kind of data!
I’m pleased to say that my most recent blog article has been published on “Bridging-the-gap.com”, where I have contributed as a guest author. I’d love to hear what you think, so please take a look and add a comment on the site. This article covers the important (but often overlooked) question of credibility, specifically focusing on the Business Analysts and Change Professionals. This article will be particularly useful to new and aspiring BAs:
It’s often said that we make assumptions about people the moment we meet them. We make these assumptions unconsciously, and they might very well affect the way that we feel, interact or work with the individuals in question. It might affect our initial ability to trust them.
Imagine the scenario: You enter a top-class private medical clinic to meet with a doctor. You are shown to the consultation room, and are met by a “doctor” wearing ripped jeans, a shirt covered in engine oil, who speaks to you whilst quaffing down a hamburger. The guy looks like he should be fixing an old Chevy, not diagnosing patients! Would you trust that doctor to diagnose and treat you?
Odds are you wouldn’t. The reality is that the clothes a doctor wears won’t impact their ability to do their job. It might introduce contamination hazards; but far more importantly it affects our perceptions. The same is true for change professionals and business analysts. However, it’s not something that is often considered!
As a BA, you need credibility. Quickly…
Read the rest of the article by clicking the link below: