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Are you asking too much of your BI team?

Are you asking too much of your BI team?

Chelsea Wise

In our last post, we spoke about the need to have a master plan beyond surviving the immediate fog and uncertainty in front of you.

Learning from the experiences of 4,700 public companies across three global recessions, a company must do two things to improve the probability of success: (1) improve operational efficiencies and (2) invest in opportunities to spur growth.

But how do you discover which areas to improve or invest in when Finance and BI teams are overwhelmed with request after request for data and reports across all areas of your business? What do you do when you’re told that the BI team is off-limits?

Studying a number of BI teams in March 2020, what we found was surprising. 

We identified three distinct profiles of BI teams, each with their pros and cons, paying respect to the fact that nobody has a master plan to cope with this uncertainty.

Broadly, teams fell into one of three categories defined by attitude (positive vs. negative) and utilisation (over vs. under):

1. “Swamped” 

These teams feel overwhelmed & in terms of hours worked, are over-utilised, working harder than ever before. Whilst super grateful to have jobs that they can do remotely, they are worried that they are sprinting at the start of a marathon to keep up with the business, and if some people in the team have been stood down, there’s even greater pressure for the team to do more, with less. 

2. “Paralysed” 

These teams feel both helpless and under-utilised. Again, grateful to have jobs that they can do remotely, but questioning the value of their function when it’s been defined by leadership as not ‘mission critical’ and any scenario planning is not given weight as everything is too uncertain, regardless of analytics or predictive modelling. The general sentiment was a feeling of helplessness and not knowing where to start looking for insights that matter when everything is changing rapidly.

3. “Death by COVID-19 Dashboards”

These teams generally had a positive attitude citing, “aside from working at home, it’s business as usual” and BAU defined as “who in the team can design the best CoronaVirus dashboard” with a laugh. These teams had a general attitude of the situation improving after Easter (April 2020) and generally taking it as an opportunity to build and share COVID-19 dashboards to pass the next few weeks. 

Note, however, these organisations are not in the business of selling COVID-19 dashboards, nor is it something that their customers care for. So while these teams subjectively feel 100% utilised, in terms of objective business value, the value of such dashboards beyond morale-boosting in the insights team, is questionable (aside: some could argue that more COVID-19 charts is only adding to noise decreasing morale and productivity). 


So, which team is in the best position moving forward?

The answer is that the way in which these BI teams are operating right now are all valid responses to this unprecedented uncertainty. Remember, nobody has a master plan. Nobody

Although each of the three responses above are valid, it doesn’t exactly feel productive.

Nor does it put into practice the search for insights that will distinguish between those organisations that will die, survive or thrive.

And connecting this to data leadership even before this looming recession, the role of a Chief Data Officer (CDO) is plagued with confusion regarding its purpose. Before the pandemic, CDOs would cite, “thank goodness for predictive analytics” to demonstrate visible progress to the organisation. And now?

So now what? What can you do?

Beyond the initial adjustment of making sure that your family and friends are safe, home offices and teams are set-up, how do you make the mental shift to the ‘new normal’?

The answer is all about control. Yep, control. 

In a situation where you have little control over finding a vaccination, government sanctions and the knock on effects on the economy, you can help by thinking like a data analyst and being hyper aware of what you can control

“What an analyst? But, we’ve got a BI team dedicated to insights!!”

While that may have been the case, what we found across organisations in March 2020 is that it’s not going to be sufficient to service the entire organisation when the BI team is off-limits or rightfully pivoting themselves to find a path forward.

How can Hyper Anna help?

Hyper Anna is an AI-powered data analyst. She proactively highlights anomalies and potential red flags that you didn’t think to look into, and helps to provide greater visibility of areas of the business that can become more efficient to identify cost cutting quickly and without overhead.

We support a number of companies such as Westpac, IAG, Singtel and Microsoft to provide better visibility of changes in the business. This means that answers to the following questions that would have taken weeks and big budgets to answer become insights, instantly: 

  • Sales are down 50% (crap!), but who is still buying? What do they look like? Which industries, geographic locations, departments, use-cases? What caused this? Now within our control, what can we do to nurture these customers? 
  • Complaints are up 70% (damn!), but who’s stopped complaining? What caused this? What did the team do to respond to these customers? Within our control, will this approach work in handling all of these new complaints?
  • New users are up 100% (great!), but who’s stopped using our product? What caused this? Now within our control, what can we do to nurture these customers?

So what are your next steps?

As we sign off on today’s post, we want to leave you with two questions to consider:

  1. What is the current state of your BI team: swamped, paralysed or a case of ‘death by COVID-19 dashboards’?
  2. How are you going to access key insights to thrive (identifying both operational efficiencies and investing to spur growth) when your BI team is off-limits?

So, that’s our thoughts for today. Good luck in your businesses. Stay tuned for more on how to find key insights during these uncertain economic times. 

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