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Business Intelligence: the art of asking the right question.

When we think about BI, typically what we’re trying to do is to focus managers’ time. The reason we want to focus their time is because we want to change the conversation they are having to the most productive one possible. Currently what a lot of managers spend their time doing is reporting, so much of their time is spent determining WHAT is going on. What are my inputs?  What are the most recent changes? Etc. But with so much time spent figuring out what is happening, there’s less left over for finding out why and potentially making changes.

By bubbling factual information up into a dashboard, the overview of what’s going on is apparent, and we can highlight areas where managers need to ask WHY? Why is this changing? Why am I seeing numbers drop here? Why are my people spending all their time there? Why is something going wrong?

In the case of a dashboard, changes in Key Performance Indicators trigger significant questions and drive information gathering  to change from being a task to create an overview, to starting with the overview and determining which task matters most. Only areas where a decision might be needed now require time and energy. Gathering information based on an overview is what we call drilling down. When people spend their time drilling down into information, they are answering ‘what’ questions, but always doing so in the context of a bigger why and deciding ‘What should we do?’ And at the end of the day, that’s the money question!

Unfortunately many people spend all their time focused on gathering what’s going on. Which leaves less time for asking intelligent questions to drive intelligent action. As the influx of information increases, it will be those who ask the right questions who will gain from information, while others become inundated just trying to keep afloat.

Harvard Business Journal just published an article on Big Data and asking the right questions. Download our guide to asking the right questions today!

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