How Do You Speed Up Information Delivery?

Mittwoch, 26. Mai 2010, 20:14:36 | Tom Davenport. Jetzt macht sogar Tom Davenport schon Reklame für SAP! (hfk)

In my last post, I described a research project with Jim Hagemann Snabe, co-CEO of SAP, on the need for speed in information delivery. It turns out that executives believe not all information needs to be delivered faster, but substantial percentages of executives — a majority, in the case of some types of information — want their information more rapidly than they currently receive it.

How do we make information available more quickly? There are, of course, technical advances that can help with this problem. They include “in-memory” technology (SAP just announced some new capabilities in this regard), which means that information and systems are stored in memory, rather than on a hard drive, for quick retrieval and manipulation. Companies are also developing new forms of databases (e.g., those that store data in columns rather than rows) that allow faster data retrieval and analysis. Companies such as Intel are creating faster microprocessors in PCs and servers that have been created for the purpose of data analysis. There is also easy-to-use software that allows executives to do their own queries and analyses with a few clicks of a mouse.

Of course, buying and implementing new technologies to speed up information is the relatively easy part. There are also process, behavior, and management changes that can accelerate information delivery and application. But since they involve humans, they tend to be tougher to implement. That’s why it’s important, as I said last time, to identify what information really needs to be delivered more quickly. When you know what you need and how quickly it’s needed, you can redesign information-creation and delivery processes to achieve the needed speed.

For each major information type, it’s also useful to think about how flexibly it is produced. Should the information be pushed (issued in standard reports with a standard frequency) or is it better off pulled (made available for online access when needed)? To save trees, storage space, and distribution costs there certainly should be fewer standard paper reports in most organizations. But even when standard reports are distributed electronically, they may languish in inboxes. Because managers want information when they want it, it’s better to employ pull approaches whenever possible. Alerts — not full reports, but warnings that certain information parameters have gone outside expected boundaries — are often more useful to circulate, and they help to create demand in pull-oriented processes. Eliminating unneeded reports may also allow companies to slim down their portfolios of IT applications if they are no longer using the data they create.

Once process changes are made, get your IT helpers and analysts working on faster and more flexible delivery capabilities for the information that really matters. Executives can work with trusted analysts to identify what information is most needed quickly, and then to create alerts, query and reporting formats, and analyses that truly inform decisions.

The next step should be to explore what can be done to make the information available at the time of need. Analysts and user-focused IT professionals can help to train executives to use the needed tools. IT executives and professionals will need to work hard to ensure adequate data governance, integration, and currency for the information that really matters to decisions.

Then, of course, there is the final step: improving the speed information is used to make decisions. Lest we forget, making better, more informed decisions is usually the goal of providing information to managers and professionals. In many cases, decision makers demand faster information only to sit on it in a slow decision process. Putting a clock on the cycle time of key decisions can help not only to speed them up but also to limit unnecessary requests for more data and analysis.

None of these steps alone will solve the information timeliness and flexibility problem. However, together they can speed cycles of business monitoring and decision making, and can yield a more responsive, flexible management approach. As the executives we surveyed suggest, that’s particularly important in preparing for the next recession or business crisis. But the time to speed up important information is before it’s needed, not after. By the time you’re in the crisis, it’s too late — and slow, inflexible information will undoubtedly have contributed to your problems.

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