I was talking to one of my customers about her experience trying to introduce the use of metrics into the business processes she is managing. Janet is in the gourmet food marketing business and was hoping to use analytics for discovering the patterns of shoppers’ consumption of her products by the time of day, as well as an impact of promotional events on the sales results. The food business, in her words, is a very fragmented environment and even the simplest business process tends to involve a number of companies to perform.
Clear understanding and measurement of the metrics, which Janet is interested in, would bring substantial financial benefits to all of the participants in this process, and yet they passively resist any attempt of implementation. Her frustration level was rising as Janet was describing the excuses she was getting from her customers and partners. They were not saying no to her proposal and even promised to make some information available, but ultimately no progress was ever made. Let’s make it clear that a cost is not a factor, as Janet’s company offered to underwrite the implementation.
“So why do ‘go-get-them’ people usually become so passive-aggressive when the analytics are involved?” Janet asked me. This question made me look back on my experiences, and it occurred to me that they invariably are similar to Janet’s. For over decades of my business career, I was charged with development and implementation of KPI’s many times in large and small companies engaged in different industries, but the outcome is always the same – passive resistance.
There are a few business processes that universally accept and practice metrics. The most common example are Sales and Call Center processes, but anyone who has managed sales forecasting will tell you that the efforts required to drive it are very substantial.
Recent explosion in web analytics technology brought to us a myriad of products that capture, measure and present dashboards of transactional data that may correlate to specific business process performance, but are very far removed from actionable KPI metrics that most of us need to manage business. Even marginal improvement in measuring performance of advertising investment disrupted the entire industry and created new multi-billion dollar players like Google. Imagine what could be done if we could measure actual impact of a given decision on the bottom line results. However, that would not be likely to happen anytime soon because of fundamental characteristics of human behavior – we will go to extraordinary lengths to avoid personal accountability.
The numbers can shine a light on our performance and quality of our decisions that can be too bright and harsh. Our organizational structures and compensation systems are too binary, with a few exceptions, to compensate for actual performance. Too commonly we get and keep our jobs not for delivering exceptional results, but for “fitting in” and showing up on time, for being efficient and working long hours, but not necessarily effective in producing the “right” results.
The key to successful, productive adoption of analytics into organizational fabric is careful selection of only those metrics that measure elements of a process that can be proactively managed by the parties involved to their performance benefit. The fewer relevant, actionable KPI metrics that help to take meaningful actions is much better than dashboards full of charts and numbers you have no control over. Relevancy beats ease of generation and drives user adoption.