Predicting the Unpredictable

Ray Wolf, Senior Vice President of Professional Services, OpenSymmetry

Corporate data is a powerful source of potential opportunity and competitive gain for every business. But unlocking valuable data from disparate systems such as customer relationship management (CRM), sales performance management (SPM) and corporate performance management (CPM) can seem like an insurmountable task. With huge volumes of data being generated and stored every day, how do you find the tiny needles of insight in the massive haystack of information? And, once you uncover that insight, how can you “democratize” that data, i.e. deliver it to the right people, at the right time, on their device of choice, so they can make impactful decisions with it?

For companies willing to tackle these questions, the benefits are undeniable. The ability to create seamless connections between performance management systems can help corporate leaders see the bigger business picture and drive end-to-end results across the organization. For instance, they can quickly identify potential customer opportunities in the CRM system, motivate the sales force to leverage those opportunities through the SPM system, and calculate the financial impact of the opportunity in the CPM system. However, most organizations today lack visibility across these systems and struggle to leverage the business intelligence (BI) they hold.

The evolution of BI maturity: Where do you go from here?
The ability to achieve end-to-end visibility and deliver actionable, mobilized business intelligence doesn’t happen overnight. Smart companies know the ability to quickly access and distribute detailed analytics to decision makers is a step-by-step evolution that requires continuous refinement. Many companies simply don’t know where to start, or the fear of failure stops them from trying. But here’s the good news: The tools and processes needed to extract and mobilize business intelligence are not just for the biggest companies in the world anymore. It’s actually a lot easier than you might think. This four-step transformation model is a great way to get started on the path to BI maturity.

Transformation Model: A Four-Step Guide to BI Maturity
The word “transformation” implies dramatic change. But in most large companies, unlocking the power of Big Data is rarely about uncovering the big trend or major opportunity. Today it’s about combing through volumes of data to find subtle but meaningful patterns in real time, and delivering that visual intelligence to people who can quickly turn it into business value. For instance, customer opportunities are usually identified through small fluctuations in CRM data, which can then lead to pricing updates or modified sales compensation plans to capitalize on this insight. In other words, transformation is a series of steps that takes you closer to your goal, building “muscle memory” along the way to lock in new processes and benefits. The key is to avoid getting stuck on perfecting the details of each component. Instead, get all of the components working together in a holistic system and then focus on maturing the system as a whole.

  • Step 1 – Assess: Understand your current mode of operation in four dimensions – people, processes, tools and technology.The ultimate goal is to get your workforce to use data in a way that positively enables them to impact revenue and behavior. Therefore, you first need to assess how your people, processes, tools and technology are currently operating. Do you have the right people to create change? Do your current processes enable workers to collaborate and meet their goals? Do they have the right tools and technology to generate the results you want? If not, why? What is your organization lacking?
  • Step 2 – Plan: Create a strategy playbook for action. Once you assess your current mode of operation (CMO), the next step is developing a picture of your future mode of operation (FMO) for your people, processes, tools and technologies. Although some organizations are uncomfortable discussing their limitations and shortcomings, smart companies readily engage in this dialog. They know that an absence of those discussions creates blind spots that can lead to costly risks down the road. Your strategy playbook should account for these limitations so you can identify the incremental steps needed to achieve BI maturity.
  • Step 3 – Implement: Get the right resources in place. Information velocity, and who can respond the fastest, is often the difference between winning and losing in the marketplace. The same is true about putting the right resources in place to execute your strategy. You need the right tools and technologies to unlock data and deliver it in the form of visual and detailed reports to help facilitate understanding. It’s also important to note that BI is not artificial intelligence. You still need the right people with expertise in your company and market to interpret reports. Data doesn’t think for you, no matter how visual it is.
  • Step 4 – Maintain: Continuously refine and optimize the system. Implementation is just the beginning. Once the new system is up and running, how will you maintain and optimize it to drive the behaviors and results you want? You have to evaluate your internal resources and processes to decide if the system can be maintained by you, a third party or perhaps a blended version of internal and external resources.

Human behavior: Your biggest risk is also your biggest asset.
Ultimately, the success or failure of BI maturity transformation comes down to your people. The first step is optimizing your systems to deliver powerful insights to smart decision makers throughout your organization, not just top-level executives. Next is empowering your workforce to capitalize on those insights and drive your business forward. Is your organization ready to be transformed?

Ray Wolfis Senior Vice president of Professional Services at OpenSymmetry, a global sales performance management (SPM) consulting firm. He has leveraged the transformation model to successfully affect change and grow companies of all sizes across seven industries over the last 23 years. He can be reached at