The Next Inflection Point in Business Analytics By: Gili Keshet-Aspitz, Verix

Big Data is the latest tech jargon to cause grief in the industry. As CIOs we are often charged with explaining it and implementing it. Far too often Big Data is baffling and often misused in business.

Gili Keshet-Aspitz has over 20 years of experience providing counsel to various startups and high tech leaders in marketing, strategic planning and management.  She has written a wonderful article on business analytics. Please see below.

The Next Inflection Point in Business Analytics

By: Gili Keshet-Aspitz, Verix

Big Data is a big name, all too often baffling and misused, yet we can not ignore the fact that in recent years, business users are flooded with available data – more varied and more complex than ever before. This data incorporates a wealth of valuable business information, some obvious and some hidden in various inter-dependencies. Traditional analytical tools, from Data Mining, to Data Visualization, slice and dice this data to provide all sorts of reports. However, as fast and graphically appealing these reports have become, we see a growing chasm between the needs of business users, and the value delivered by these tools.

As a result of this ever-widening gap, only a fraction of potential business intelligence users in the enterprise, actually utilize BI solutions. Whether regarded too complex to use, or too vain to trust, the majority of would-be consumers for valuable business information, opt to stay away and leave it to “the experts”, the analysts. This dependency on analysts creates a taxing bottleneck that raises a key question in today’s business intelligence market: How could we connect more business users to the information cycle in a cost effective manner? In other words, how can we allow business users to benefit from valuable available data, by making it more accessible to the masses?

So what’s missing in today’s analytical tools?

Traditional BI tools provide a broad, high level view of the business. The better ones, allow all sorts of drilling-in to create an impressive set of reports, presented graphically with colorful charts, tables, and maps. Alas, what these tools are missing, is focus. Many users can’t see the forest for the trees and definitely cannot tell where are the highest priority issues, relevant for every user in the organization.

A new wave of narrowly focused tools, tried to address this excess of irrelevant information. These tools provide a restricted view, focusing on a single area of interest. Concentrating on a specific field, insights generated by these tools are more actionable, though lack context and perspective as they view only a narrow sliver of the business.

Both approaches require professional analysts to compile the information into operational insights before they can actually serve business decision makers in any useful manner. With traditional BI tools, analysts ought to provide the focus. With the narrowly focused tools, analysts ought to provide the context. On their own, both approaches create too vague a picture to rely upon. This dependency on analysts creates that troubling bottleneck I mentioned above, and leads to that notoriously low utilization of business intelligence.

The solution lies in looking differently at the way business data is being analyzed. Instead of starting with all available data and slicing and dicing through it to provide a wide variety of views – by timeline, geography, sales, etc., a new method starts with common business processes and addresses typical questions in managing these processes. From the business process’ point of view, relevant information is being gathered and presented in an operational manner – focused and relevant, answering specific business questions and providing all needed context to understand the situation and immediately act upon it.

The novelty of this approach is the amalgamation of business logic with all available data, to automatically narrow it down on a case by case basis and hone in on insights that are relevant for each specific process and every constituent involved in that process.

The next inflection point in business analytics, brings vendors with deep domain expertise and knowledge of a market, to provide process-oriented analytical applications. Applications that on one hand, see” every bit of data that might affect their process, and on the other hand, show business users a narrow view that focuses them on relevant insights for their job and their role in the organization.

The beauty of this approach is the independence it gives business users, to self serve their basic analytical needs. Analysts love this method, as it frees them to focus on complex, unstructured, and innovative tasks, which they rarely had time for when occupied with mundane, repetitive tasks of serving all business users. A win-win situation that significantly boosts performance in organizations.

BIO

Gili Keshet-Aspitz,

Sr. Director of Strategic Marketing

unnamedGili Keshet-Aspitz has more than 20 years of experience providing counsel to various startups and high tech leaders in marketing, strategic planning and management. She has a strong technical background in engineering management, bringing products from concept to market. Gili has spent the last 4 years as the Sr. Director of Strategic Marketing for Verix, the leading business analytics solution for Pharma Commercial Operations.

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Systems Objective Scorecard

During the course of managing an IT department, it is important for IT management to understand areas of risks. There are standard best practices that can be engaged to score your department/organization. Below I have added some as a starting point. These are by no way complete.

 

Management and Planning

Objective 1

The staff responsibilities to information systems environment are assigned to specialized personnel.

Deficiencies in this objective could lead to not knowing and/or too many responsibilities associated to information systems.

 

Objective 2

The strategies about information systems, development plans and budget are mapped according to the strategic goal and company business.

Deficiencies in this objective could lead to the design, purchase/construction, development and system operations not responding to the company and business needs.

 

Objective 3

The selection of a service provider is based on company policies.

Deficiencies in this objective could lead to unsuitable service and inaccurate generated information, vulnerable or lack of integrity.

 

Objective 4

The services levels given by the provider are consistent with the Management expectations.

Deficiencies in this objective could lead to unsuitable service and inaccurate generated information, vulnerable or lack of integrity.

 

Objective 5

Users receive correct formation in use and handling the information systems.

Deficiencies in this objective could lead the incorrect use of information assets, which could cause generated information, were inaccurate, vulnerable or lacks of integrity.

 

Physical and Logical Security

Objective 1

Tools and security techniques are implemented and set up with the purpose of assuring a correct logical techniques level, narrowing the access to the programs, data and other information sources only for authorized persons.

Deficiencies in this objective could lead to unauthorized access and possible exposure, theft, modification, damage or loss of information, due to absence of proper policies, the lack of implementation of these measures on information systems and ignorance on the part of users of safety standards.

 

Objective 2

Tools and security logical techniques are implemented to monitor and control actions on information systems.

Deficiencies in this objective could lead to lack of control made actions on information systems, with possible impact in information confidentially, integrity and availability.

 

Objective 3

Information systems are correctly protected against external attacks and/or malicious codes.

Deficiencies in this objective could lead to unauthorized access and possible exposure, theft, modification, damage or loss of information.

 

Objective 4

Tools and security are implemented to allow access to information systems only to authorized users.

Deficiencies in this objective could lead to unauthorized access and possible exposure, theft, modification, damage or loss of information, due to an incorrect access profiles management.

 

Objective 5

All information resources are fixed by a correct security control, access to critical areas are restricted to authorized personnel.

Deficiencies in this objective could lead to unauthorized access and possible exposure, theft, modification, damage or loss of information, as well as failures or incidences in information systems working and other disaster or extraordinary accidents.

 

Objective 6

All company information resources are identified and managed.

Deficiencies in this objective could lead the incorrect of fraudulent use of equipment and/or data they have, leading in a possible exposure, theft, modification, damage or loss of information.

 

Applications Development and Maintenance

Objective 1

Development or maintenance applications of projects are consistent with the management’s intention.

Deficiencies in this objective could lead to the design, purchase/construction and systems development not responsive to the end users’ needs.

 

Objective 2

Migration process of replaced old applications is carried out accurately and completely.

Deficiencies in this objective could negatively impact information integrity and validity.

 

Infrastructures Operations and Maintenance

Objective 1

Infrastructure development or maintenance projects (database software, networks, equipment) are in consistent with the management’s intentions.

Deficiencies in this objective could lead to changes not responsive to the users’ needs.

 

Objective 2

Technological infrastructure are correctly identified and supported.

Deficiencies in this objective could lead to the changes not responses to the users’ needs, as well as a possible loss of knowledge in information assets.

 

Objective 3

Information systems levels of service providers are consistent with the management’s expectations.

Deficiencies in this objective could lead to the information systems not working correctly, resulting in potential risk to the availability of the information.

 

Objective 4

In disaster case, every essential business processes are recoverable in a defined time.

Deficiencies in this objective could lead to the information integrity and availability, due to incomplete, inaccurate or no recoverable data.

 

Objective 5

The information is kept in accordance to company laws, regulations and politics, could be recoverable, in case.

Deficiencies in this objective could lead to the information integrity and availability, be incomplete, inaccurate or not recoverable data.

Pitching the Technical Solution

Presenting a case to non-technical executives is always a challenge. While executives are focused on ROI and keeping cost predictable and sensibly manageable, some do have an ear for technology solutions that bring value and savings over time to an organization. Not all technology requests have to be feared as long as they are presented in a fashion that makes fiscal sense.

When pitching IT solutions, do not take a technical approach. Leave the technological advantages for last and only after you have captured the attention and interest in your money and resource saving IT virtual solutions. Make the following three points when explaining your ideas.

1- Savings Over Time. Present factors that can ultimately lead to big savings on capital expenditures on hardware/software showing that purchasing fewer systems will improve the bottom line.

2- Time Savings. The idea will lead to more time spent on critical projects that add value and dollars to the bottom line. This free time can be spent on strategy planning and moving the enterprise to a higher operating plane.

3- Increase Performance. Performance can be improved without having to buy more keeping a tight budget.

Back up all the above with KPIs. Hard graphical data trending over time always captures everyone’s attention. It is hard to dispute the cold reality of numbers.

 

Key Performance Indicators

Every department needs to develop key performance indicators to measure performance. IT is no exception. In fact, it is probably more important for IT to have a set of KPIs to show overall performance in the business. This supports the mission of IT to add value to the organiztion. For my department I have been tracking the following KPIs. I have been tracking on a weekly basis to keep an eye on trends that may develop. Your organization may be different but I would recommend that you track with more frequency then less.

Financial Management:

  • Percent of IT cost vs. total revenue of the
    organization
  • Percent of keeping the lights on cost compared
    to the total IT cost
  • Dollars saved due to productivity improvement
    initiatives
  • Average seat/resource cost trending over (Month
    to Month)(Quarter on Quarter)(Year to Year)
  • Actual spend vs. budget (Month to Month)(Quarter
    on Quarter)(Year to Year)

Project Performance:

  • Percent of projects completed within schedule
    and budget
  • Percent of projects exceeded their original
    schedule and/or budget by xx % (we use 10%)
  • Percent of project time consumed by rework due
    to defect fixes and scope changes
  • Number of known defects released to production
  • Percent of projects initiated without an
    approved business case

Operations Management:

  • Business critical system/application uptime
  • Average turnaround time for fixing production
    incidents
  • Number of production incidents by severity
  • Percent of service requests/tickets closed
    within the SLAs
  • Average time to resolution for service tickets
  • Business time lost due to unscheduled downtime

Information Security:

  • Number of security breaches/incidents in systems
    and infrastructure
  • Percent of systems/applications compliant to
    security policies/standards
  • Percent of security patches applied within
    timelines/deadlines

The above KPIs have been graphed in Excel using the raw data collected. Again I track on a weekly basis which make it easy to slice and dice the data when asked. We have now started the process of incorporating this information into a dashboard format. We are using a product from iDashboard to help convert this data. It is recommended that a developer be involved to write scripts to interpret this data. Taking raw Excel data and importing in iDashboards was not clean and required additional coding. The end result will be to see this information in a clean graphical format wit the push of a button.

CIO Blogs for July 2011

CIO BlogsReinvent Your Training Methods by Chris Curran

Available does not equal best by Eric D. Brown

Transitioning IT from a technical focus to a business focus by IT BS Watch

How to Kill Projects and Develop Agile Programs Part 1 by Isaac Sacolick

Free Answers From Google On How CIOs Can Be Better Managers  by Jim Anderson

Where Is Your Risk Assessment?

One of the few analyses that are overlooked in most IT departments is a comprehensive risk assessment.

A risk assessment should identify, analyze, and weigh all the potential risks, threats and hazards to a company’s internal and external business environment. 

The process of identifying risks/threats, probability of occurrence, the vulnerability to each risk/threat and the potential impact that could be caused, is necessary to prepare preventative measures and create recovery strategies.  Risk identification provides a number of other advantages to a company including: 

  • Exposes previously overlooked vulnerabilities that need to be addressed by plans and procedures
  • Identifies where preventative measures are lacking or need reevaluation
  • Can point out the importance of contingency planning to get staff and management on board
  • Will assist in documenting interdependencies and point out single points of failures

An effective risk management process is an important component of a company’s MIS department. The principal goal is to protect a company and its ability to perform its mission, not just its IT assets. Therefore, the risk management process should not be treated primarily as a technical function carried out by the IT, but as an essential management function of the organization.

Risk is the net negative impact of the exercise of vulnerability, considering both the probability and the impact of occurrence. Risk management is the process of identifying risk, assessing risk, and taking steps to reduce risk to an acceptable level. This assessment provides a foundation for the development of an effective risk management program, containing both the definitions and the practical guidance necessary for assessing and mitigating risks identified within IT systems. The ultimate goal is to help a company better manage IT-related mission risks.

CIO Blogs for January 2011

Better Communication: Technology Isn’t Always The Best Solution by Mike SchaffnerCIO Blogs

CIO as General Manager? by Mark Brewer

Can a CIO be successful without IT experience? Define your terms! by Peter Kretzman

Four Models for success for the CTO / CIO- CTOVision by Eric Brown

Why CIOs Need Management Power Maps To Get Anything Done by Jim Anderson

How To Cope When The Boss Is A Bully by Andy Blumenthal