Tom Davenport asks, “Are you getting the information you need when you need it?”
Tom Davenport poses this question in an article written the Harvard Business Review blog. To read the complete article, check out other articles and resources, and/or sign up for a free subscription to Harvard Business Daily Alerts, please visit firstname.lastname@example.org.
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How fast do you really need your information? Working with Jim Hagemann Snabe, co-CEO of SAP, I did a study of what kind of information managers need and how quickly they need it delivered. We interviewed both senior executives (15 current or former CEOs and business unit heads) as well as managers who are charged with information delivery. We also surveyed 302 senior executives at large U.S. companies about the speed with which they get the information they need and their desires for faster information delivery.
Not surprisingly, many (but hardly all) said they wanted their information faster. But there were major variations in which specific types of information they wanted at a faster pace and under what business conditions it was essential to have more speed. And because every executive interviewed had different needs and desires for information type and frequency, there is an obvious need for greater flexibility.
There are many reasons why information comes slowly and inflexibly. Some involve valid business reasons — such as the need to integrate and consolidate information across business units or links to externally-influenced business processes such as statutory financial reporting. Others are less defensible, including technologies that don’t allow for rapid information access and display. In my next post I will discuss how to remove some of these obstacles. In this one, I’ll focus on what kind of information is really needed most quickly and flexibly. It takes effort to speed up information; so knowing your priorities is helpful.
The most critical forms of information are dictated in part by your industry. For engineering-oriented firms, the product-development pipeline is vitally important. At a retail clothing chain, the type of information that was most critical was inventory levels in stores. This company worked for several years to both get it right and make it easily accessible to managers. In a primarily online business, such as an online gifts firm we interviewed, the overall cycle time is much faster than most other businesses, and the online behaviors of customers are the most critical type of information. Unique visitors, time spent on pages, click-throughs, conversions, and abandoned orders are all critical pieces of information.
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To read the complete article, check out other articles and resources, and/or sign up for a free subscription to Harvard Business Daily Alerts, please visit email@example.com.
Tom Davenport holds the President’s Chair in Information Technology and Management at Babson College. His most recent books are Competing on Analytics: The New Science of Winning and Analytics at Work.
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