Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Thoughts from ODTUG Kaleidoscope 2008

Kaleidoscope 2008 is getting into full swing, and I've already found some nuggets of wisdom from the speakers. Ron Moore, one of the first Essbase certified consultants in the world and founder of Marketing Technologies Group (, is a speaker at Kaleidoscope this year. In conversation with him about blending analytic and relational data, he said that you:

"Just can't get by on a hammer or a saw - you need both."

From the perspective of corporate data, that just rings true. Companies can't simply rely upon cube data from their analytic applications in order to make the best business decisions, and they can't rely solely upon relational data – they need both. And to create a central data store requires cooperation between the business owners (of analytic data) and IT owners (of the relational data stores).

Many companies experience a disconnect between the Finance and IT groups, as their goals can appear to be at odds. While Finance teams often implement the business systems, it is IT who inherits the issues of compliance, maintainability, and governance for those systems. But in order to successfully integrate corporate data to provide a holistic information view, the project requires the cooperation of both groups.

In order to harness the value of the content in the cube data, we need to synthesize it within relational data sources. Ultimately, a standard rows and columns relational database is the only common ground to which every application available to the information technology industry can have ubiquitous access. Trying to achieve the bridge in the absence of relational technology creates the potential for a myriad of misinterpretation and eventually the value of the cube data would get lost in translation.

Once the cube data is exported into a relational structure, the infrastructure and data are in place to provide information access to stakeholder groups across the business. A potential next project step, incorporating data from other sources such as ERP or CRM systems or operational data stores, creates a centralized, single version of the truth for all stakeholders to work from, and provides a comprehensive, holistic view of the business that includes both operational and management data.

The benefits of this level of integration to a company are myriad. But as Ron Moore so succinctly put it, it takes both the hammer and the saw to make this kind of effort successful. Finding the tools and technologies that can help bridge the inherent gap between groups is imperative to success.

As Kaleidoscope continues through the week, I'm sure that I'll hear more about opportunities to create mutually beneficial projects between Finance and IT groups and the tools to support them. With technical and thought leaders from across the country here in New Orleans, I'm sure I'll find a few more nuggets of wisdom to share this week.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


I recently attended a business meeting with Mr. Howard Dresner, industry expert and thought leader for Enterprise Performance Management (EPM), and I paraphrased his comments in my last post on Insight vs. Accountability. In fact, it was his comments that inspired the post. Today, I came across a recent post from Mr. Dresner's blog that encapsulates and extends my paraphrasing. I thought I'd share the quote, and let you have it directly from his words:

"The inclination to buy "yet-another-tool" remains strong – even though most acknowledge it's the wrong thing to do. Of course, vendors like to sell more technology. However, most organizations already have plenty. What they lack is a roadmap and the vision to properly deploy it. But, buying another tool is so much easier than addressing the real problem: a lack of management commitment and organization dysfunction."

Food for thought…

Friday, June 13, 2008

Insight vs. Accountability: Redefining Corporate Performance

Insight: The clear (and often sudden) understanding of a complex situation. (1)

Accountability: The obligation to demonstrate and take responsibility for performance in light of commitments and expected outcomes. (2)

I recently had the opportunity to hear Howard Dresner speak at a business meeting where he touched on the scariest aspect of Enterprise Performance Management – that everyone in the organization becomes accountable (my apologies for the paraphrasing). As he spoke, I experienced an 'Aha' moment. Nobody really wants that. Not really. Well, maybe the CFO, but nobody else.

In past posts I've discussed the evolution of Business Intelligence (BI) and how we've moved from information gathering and analysis into performance-driven organizations. And while I have touched on the shift needed to create a performance-driven culture, I wanted to pause and really think about this.


It's not enough to understand where our business impacts are occurring, or even why they occur. Thus far, companies have made considerable investments to address these issues. We need to go beyond this: we need to know the what, understand the why, and ensure that the people who can take action have the tools in place to make the best decisions, and that they are accountable for the actions that they take, as well as the actions that they don't. That is a big, scary order. Imagine if every decision you made in a day showed up on a scoreboard. Hey, this was in my area of responsibility and I just blew it off, and everyone is the wiser. It cuts against the very grain of corporate culture.

Bob Kaplan and David Norton, creators of the balanced scorecard, identified in their recent Harvard Business Review article Mastering the Management System, (3) "breakdowns in a company's management system, not managers' lack of ability or effort, are what cause a company's underperformance. By management system, we're referring to the integrated set of processes and tools that a company uses to develop its strategy, translate it into operational actions, and monitor and improve the effectiveness of both."

Many companies, recognizing the benefits of performance management, have already made extensive investments in the technologies to support true organizational accountability:
  • EPM systems provide the alignment between strategic, tactical and operational performance.
  • The integration of data from financial, operational and stakeholder systems provides a comprehensive, accurate view of our organizational ecosystem.
  • Process tools such as balanced scorecards let us manage and monitor the transition from strategy to execution.
  • As we come closer to real-time analytics, we are working with a leading, predictive view of our businesses.
With these systems in place, and as we experience unprecedented insight into and understanding of our businesses, we have the infrastructure to support enterprise performance management. We need to continue to develop the business processes and philosophy that support a discipline of continuous awareness and accountability for decision-making within the company.

Building a performance-driven, accountable culture requires a ground-up rethinking of how we do business. It takes leaders from within the organization, at all levels, to drive accountability and to have the discipline to be continually aware of and adapt their plans to subtle changes in the business. They must have a view of the broader business environment, the impacts of their decisions on their own business areas as well as other groups, and access to the right information, updated in real-time. It is a tall order, but by combining accurate data, management tools, and sound business processes, companies can drastically change their performance within the market, and realize gains that go beyond financial success and into a transformation of their corporate culture.

1. Princeton University Cognitive Science Laboratory, WordNet, Insight

2. Government of Canada Information Management Glossary, Accountability

3. Robert Kaplan and David Norton. "Mastering the Management System," Harvard Business Review