Information Technology Management with a Purpose

Aug 2 2010   7:02AM GMT

Business analytics and the CIO

S R Balasubramanian Profile: S R Balasubramanian

Many organizations have already gone through the usual grind of generating several periodic and ad-hoc reports. Managers take action on some of them, whereas many such reports get printed as a matter of routine—with very little use made of them.

On the other hand, routine reports have a limited use. These are used by managers for operational review and control, but do not carry much value for the senior management. Again, the so called MIS is a set of predefined formats generated for management review of operations and financial parameters. Information reports such as sales versus target, expenses versus budgets, and sales by category/geography/customer type are some such examples.

Over the last couple of years, we have been hearing a lot about analytics and business intelligence as well as data mining. In fact, various predictions by research firms indicate increasing spends on these applications. With heightened competition in the markets, top management (across the world) is looking for focused information on markets, competitors and expenses. They constantly yearn for analysis that will help them arrest decline of their market share, spot opportunities, correct inefficiencies, and optimize expenses. When so much is happening at the Board level, can the CIO be far away?

Using information, the CIO can play a significant role when it comes to enhancing the organization’s ability to analyze its performance using a proper diagnosis of problems and available opportunities. For instance, work on sales force automation was initiated in one of the organizations (that I earlier worked with), and the pilot proved successful. Encouraged by its success, the organization’s sales division decided to roll out this application at all centers. However, I had my apprehensions since we had not worked out adequate justification for all the requisite spends. Funds would be incurred on hundreds of handsets, connectivity, backend infrastructure, and on the services. So I sat with the sales team to develop analytics for performance of salesmen, outlet productivity, area wise/ outlet class wise sales patterns, and other multi dimensional correlations. As a result of this process, the application’s purpose got clearer. We had greater buy-in from field staff, managers and the management.

In another case, analysis of the inspection data revealed that many items were not rejected even once during the past one year—leading to a suggestion that that inspection entry in such cases could be skipped. This saved several manhours. In-depth analysis of the warranty returns brought forth issues that were hidden from view.

Opportunities are many for the enterprising. So in my opinion, a CIO can take the lead and be more relevant to business.

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