Those of you who read my blog regularly may remember that I recently published an article entitled “Using Data to drive Sustainability”, where I referred to the Desert Mountain Golf community. Desert Mountain is a mid-size business located in Arizona, USA that is using analytics to drive sustainability and drive business efficiencies.
I recently had the opportunity to reach out and interview a senior leader from Desert Mountain about the business, the challenges the organisation faces and the analytics solution that has been implemented. I found this case-study really interesting because it’s a very different and innovative business facing some unique challenges.
The verbatim interview is below – enjoy!
1. The Desert Mountain golf community sounds like a really exciting and unique business, and I’m sure you must have some very unique challenges. Are you able to share your key strategic challenges or concerns? Or put another way “What keeps you awake at night”?
The primary issue that keeps me awake is how to maintain golfers’ expectations of course conditions and the overall golfing experience while dealing with increases in commodity pricing and material costs. In the last two years, the cost of doing business has risen 15-20 percent. Golfer expectation has risen with the lagging economy, as it has at most private clubs. With less disposable income to spend, the more value they seek in their club membership.
2. Many businesses say that they are faced with increased competition and need to innovate to succeed. How important is innovation in your business, and what enables you to keep ahead of the game?
Innovation is critical to be successful and to remain successful. At Desert Mountain, we try to talk about our overall issues with our vendors and manufacturers which gives them an understanding of how our business is run—traditionally each vendor understands only the specific area of their expertise. In turn, the vendor will take my problem to people in the industry who perhaps are willing to become part of the solution through innovation.
A business must continue to reinvent itself, especially today, to provide value to its customers as well as to become smarter in the use of resources. With increases in the price of our materials, 80 percent effectiveness isn’t good enough anymore. It’s all about using the right materials at the right time. IBM’s business analytics are helping us do that.
3. I understand that you’ve utilised a Business Analytics solution which has helped you create efficiencies and improve and grow your business. How were you managing data before? Can you share some detail on how and where you have integrated the use of business analytics within your organisation? What are the key things you measure?
There was no cross utilization of information previously. We weren’t building a pyramid. We had columns of data that we couldn’t link up. IBM analytics will link these so we can better integrate all the data we collect. For example, we can measure the gallons of water we use in a day, daily kilowatt usage, soil moisture, salt levels and soil temperature. Then we can link this “below ground” information with the data we collect above ground from our weather stations to evaluate impact.
4. What is the biggest benefit that enhanced business analytics has given you?
The ability to predict and forecast opportunities as they occur. It gives me enough information quickly enough to make adjustments instead of relying on trends.
5. Did developing your business analytic capability expose anything about your business that you weren’t expecting (e.g. did you find any surprises)? If so, are you able to share them?
Yes! For example, the analytics exposed mowing frequencies that weren’t required. We were mowing the greens five days a week but were able to reduce the schedule to three days a week which saved us 1,600 hours of mowing time per course, and the cost of the fuels used in the mowers. We were also able to reduce our leaching schedule (in which we flush out the total dissolved salts from the soil) from 20 times per year to six. This represented a savings of 3-4 million gallons of reclaimed water and a 10-15 percent reduction in our greens fertilization.
6. What three pieces of advice would you give to a CEO who is considering implementing a business analytic solution?
1. Be sure you’re collecting the right data.
2. Simplify it. Identify key performance indicators that will have an impact on your desired goals, whether these are financial savings, increased efficiency or customer satisfaction.
3. Act on the information.
This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet.