I often come across Sales and Marketing people frustrated by the amount of time they spend entering information into systems as opposed to time spent in front of customers. This leaves many to think that technology isn't helping; rather the opposite - it's actually getting in the way of them achieving their objectives.
There will always be a need to collate information to facilitate decision-making. However, the real question is whether or not organisations are using this information. And where they are using it, how are they using it? Unfortunately, most collect more than they actually use.
As the amount of data grows and more data sources become available, the information monster in the business will also grow. If left untamed, the monster will strangle the productivity of the business - leading to a downward spiral of more resource and lower business efficiency.
Monitoring the data requests and assessing the efficiency of your systems in processing of information is part of the answer, but the underlying solution lies in organisational design and effectiveness.
Having led an internal department that is often guilty of feeding the information monster, I have firsthand experience of this. Running an integrated business planning process, you need to ensure that you are in control and agreeing an aligned demand, supply and financial plan. This requirement can evolve into the feeling that you need to analyse and understand all of the underlying plans to ensure that they are based on solid ground and that you are clear on the risks to the plan. Very quickly, the information management and analysis in the business becomes centralised.
This was great news for senior managers who were getting the answers they wanted when they wanted them. However, it had become ineffective from a business process perspective. An information monster had been born with my team demanding more and more from the commercial teams. What's worse, responsibility for the business plans was becoming divorced from their delivery - Sales and Marketing were no longer presenting and justifying their plans to senior management, my team were. The business organisation was no longer effective.
Reassessing the situation, it became obvious that the focus of my team was wrong - understanding and justifying the plans is the responsibility of those who are paid to create and deliver the plans. My team's responsibility was to ensure that the process ran smoothly, capture the big issues and opportunities and use the process to facilitate decision making.
This refocus reduced the amount of information requests and empowered the Sales, Marketing and Supply Chain teams. The quality of the analysis and plans actually improved as the teams doing the analysis were the people that were accountable for delivering their plans. The information monster had been tamed.
With the amount of data growing almost exponentially, the monster will be back. Can you tame it and harness its power, or will your business be strangled?