Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Unique, Like Everyone Else

I gave a presentation at one of our partners' User Conference this morning, and stayed for a panel discussion with some industry experts. Even though the industry in question was enterprise asset management, I heard some familiar comments that I suspect are universal truths.

First was advice about getting executive support for a new project. The answer (no surprise here) was being able to demonstrate ROI. Whether BI, or an equipment maintenance initiative, executives need to see the impact on the bottom line.

Second was talk about metrics. The gist was that measuring key areas of your business, and tracking the results of attempted improvements are incredibly important. Again, because of the success of Tom Davenport's Competing on Analytics, this idea is not coming out of left field.

Third was a focus on management. The manufacturing sector's trend toward outsourcing has had a ripple effect by depleting the maintenance engineer talent pool of new workers. The fact is that young people aren't training for this industry, and therefore companies need to do more with less. Software helps to some degree, by squeezing efficiency out of every area, but the real key comes down to the leadership. You can provide a great BI tool, but with a weak manager you will not be able to save a failing business.

In summary, it doesn't matter in what vertical you work, the challenges and best practices are the same at the core.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Historical Quadrant

I read an enlightened article called Analysts as a lagging indicator of success that explains issues with some of the large analyst firms very clearly.

In a nutshell, companies that have deeper pockets and/or more market share get more coverage. There is nothing inherently wrong with this setup. It's just that people evaluating options for a new project (e.g. a Business Intelligence deployment) should keep this in mind when looking at their research. The most established, or historically successful companies are not necessarily the best solutions for problems you are facing right now.

Small analyst firms tend to be more focused on the real technology innovations, and customer experiences. This information is of more value to a nascent opportunity.

That being said, for a vendor it feels good to be recognized by the big name analysts. It's validation that you did your job well for the past few years.