• Business Intelligence and Why Some CEOs Fear It

    While evolving technologies are likely to be the staple diet of any company IT department, terminologies such as business intelligence and AI often send those higher up the corporate food
    chain running for cover. While this “head in the sand” approach may have got many CEOs by in the past, business intelligence is proving to be an exception to this otherwise cardinal rule.

    While simply leaving your IT department “to take care of it” may have sufficed with other technologies, those who choose to ignore the potential of business intelligence could soon end up at the rear of the pack. As with most of the issues which so often afflict the command chain in the corporate world, communication almost always lies at the heart of it all.

    Identifying some of the common challenges that CEOs need to deal with

    Before we launch directly into the whys and wherefores of how CEOs may be able to leverage the most from business intelligence there are certainly plenty of benefits in understanding some of the challenges which they face. The first thing worthy of reminding ourselves of is that there are only (in general terms at least) two types of corporate business. That is to say that a company is either expanding or contracting, there is no place in the corporate world for an organization that is standing still.

    It doesn’t, therefore, require a degree in rocket science to grasp just how much pressure is continually being placed upon the shoulders of any CEO to ensure that the organization in which they head up is going in the preferred direction. Handling the expectations of stakeholders in balance with realistic growth can, therefore, call for a very specific skill set. Below, we have highlighted some of the demands which a typical CEO is likely to manage.

    Delivering the goods (speeding up the growth process)

    As you may well have already guessed, accelerating company growth sits right at the top of the list, because stakeholders are always eager to see them turn a profit. If for no other reason than this, treading the knife-edge between reinvestment and dealing out the profits is always going to be one scary place for any CEO. In fact, whether you managed an international soccer team or a company that puts nuts on bolts, failure to meet growth expectations is your fastest route to the job interview queue.

    Coping with the need to provide stakeholders with instant information

    They say that information is king and whether you are convinced of that or not, you can rest assured that your stakeholders will be. The need for instant information has been (and will likely continue to be) the downfall of many unwitting CEOs who have considered it easiest to pass this somewhat hot potato onto their IT teams. The irony behind this particular issue is that with the correct systems in place, any CEO has the potential to deliver the required information with a few clicks of the mouse or taps of an app.

    While many such requests from stakeholders and other interested parties are likely to arrive at the last minute and during the most inopportune circumstances, they can be easily met through the correct use of your company’s business intelligence.

    Misunderstanding business intelligence

    In all fairness, it could be accepted that it takes a completely different skill set to manage a company than it does to interpret and access information concerning it. That said any self-respecting CEO will also be aware that they, as much as anyone else with a vested interest in the organization, need access to up to date and pertinent data.

    Understanding how data has been procured and accessed is, therefore, crucial to decisions that are subsequently made on the back of it. While many CEOs are fully appreciative of the role business intelligence plays, a large proportion of them are still happy to detach themselves from it and simply pass it onto their IT departments. The net result of this approach is often manifesting in “fire fighting” and kneejerk reactions to the next daily crisis.

    Mismanaging budget limitations for business intelligence

    It is no secret that Henry Ford had an aversion to what he colloquially termed as “bean counters”, and while many CEOs and top-tier managers may be inclined to embrace his philosophy, financial control has historically proven to be an indispensable business tool. Convincing CFOs to apportion ever-increasing budgets to invest in business intelligence, however, can prove to be almost as demanding for CEOs as dealing with the technology itself.

    So, how are CEOs able to gain the maximum benefit from their IT teams?

    All of the aforementioned issues are best addressed and subsequently remedied through opening up clear lines of communication between CEOs and their IT departments. By initiating frank and open discussion, both sides of the table are more likely to gain insight into the needs and goals of the other. From the type of data that is required to its impact on the growth of the organization, both parties will gain a clearer understanding of how it needs to be packaged and its subsequent effects. In the following, we explore some steps that will benefit both CEOs and their IT teams in relation to the use of their business intelligence.

    Establishing interdepartmental communication as your primary goal

    If you prefer some proven authority with the information you are served up, then who better than two-time finalist of the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the year, Jon Hansen. He rightfully points out that while both small businesses and larger organizations fully accept the principle of “open communication” it is not always fully practiced. In fact, according to his data, just shy of 40% of the employees polled on this very issue are convinced that interdepartmental collaboration is falling well short of its potential.

    Only via proactive discussion and targeted strategy is this situation likely to be improved upon, which places the whole process squarely into the laps of CEOs. By affording upper-level C-suite personnel the remit and opportunities to organize and implement workable solutions, communications with IT and other relevant departments can be opened up.

    Education of your C-suite concerning the importance of business information and analytics

    One of the issues which can be dealt with virtually straightaway is to address the lack of understanding which is rife among many CEOs and C-suite teams. Tailored training and collaborative initiatives is a simple and expedient route to improving overall data efficiency. Likewise, modification and standardization of workflows will lead to everyone concerned gaining ease of access to the most relevant information.

    Leading from the front to ensure that everyone gets on-board

    By emphasizing collaboration as a core ethos of operations at the onboarding stage, everyone involved is able to “buy into” such a philosophy. Put another way, once a course is set, it will be far easy to purse that to initiate changes later on. By starting with the CEO and IT department, there is likely to be a much greater level of implementation and success as this collaborative process filters down the corporate chain.

    Joining up the dots

    While highlighting and pursuing the above steps is likely to go a long way towards connecting CEOs with their IT teams, it is worth bearing in mind that our original aim was to gain maximum benefit from the available business intelligence. This, however, is far more likely to occur once all the parties concerned have a fuller understanding of each other’s needs.

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