In today’s global, digital economy, companies that excel at innovation and speed to market unquestionably have competitive edges. Small companies have an inherent advantage. The challenge is for larger companies, especially those that have been around for a while. Think Google or Apple vs. IBM or HP. It’s not that IBM and HP aren’t innovative at times, but Google and Apple are known for their innovation. So what makes them different?
For companies to be innovative, they must be highly adaptable. This may sound simple, but several characteristics of an adaptable company can be modeled. One characteristic is a well designed enterprise business intelligence solution.
I really like the model put forth by Jim Davis, Gloria Miller, and Allan Russell in Information Revolution: Using the Information Revolution Model to Grow Your Business. In this book, they propose four dimensions to consider when evaluating your organization’s ability to leverage information:
1. Infrastructure. This dimension addresses all the software, hardware, and networking tools and technologies that support every phase of the information process. The assessment, purchase, implementation, and use of these components must be part of the overall business intelligence strategy. This requires an effective communications process to ensure that everyone’s needs are considered, and that all decisions are optimized at the organizational level.
2. Knowledge process. This focuses on the strategic as well as specific uses of the information infrastructure. This includes the policies, best-practices, standards, and governance of all aspects of the information cycle, as well as the performance metrics, reward systems, and commitment to strategic use of information at the highest levels of the organization. For this dimension to operate smoothly, a cohesive, collaborative leadership team is essential.
3. Human capital. This focuses on the importance of assessing and developing all team members to their highest potential. An inherent organizational wisdom is unveiled and leveraged for maximum innovation and adaptability through the skill development and nurturing of employees.
4. Culture. This focuses on how your organization positions information as a long-term strategic asset. Specifically, it addresses the interaction between organizational and human influences as it relates to information flow. This includes the moral, social, and behavioral norms of corporate culture as evidenced by the attitudes, belief, and priorities of its members. This requires effective communication skills and an ethos of trust.
Evaluating an organization on these four dimensions highlights a shift in our view of business intelligence. Until very recently, organizations thought of BI strictly as a technology issue. This is the underlying reason for most BI failures. The power of the model proposed by Davis, Miller, and Russell is its holistic focus on the impact and relevance of these important dimensions on all aspects of an organization.