zap the Board

October 25th, 2010 by Stephen Jones Leave a reply »

Last week we undertook in depth training in zap BI which is being enthusiastically adopted by Dynamcis customers.

  • Have you ever wondered what your board really thinks of those reports you sweat over every month?
  • What do corporate information boards really want?,
  • How does zap business intelligence (BI) for  Microsoft Dynamics ERP and CRM systems drastically improve board reporting, and ultimately, board effectiveness?.

Throughout the history of military operations, conquering armies were led by warriors who possessed an ability to visualize the battlefield. Napoleon had a remarkable talent for this. Using nothing more than his intuition coupled with disparate and often spurious or fragmented information, he could sketch a mental picture of the battlefield. He called this “coup d’oeil,” his “inward eye” through which he visualized the terrain and anticipated the moves of his enemy. This ability to rapidly piece together multiple data sources and turn those islands of data into information to make tactical and strategic decisions is the key to successful board membership.

Board members are usually problem rich and  time poor, and often sit on several boards. When they come together, they need reliable board level information  that tells them immediately what they need to know. Then can better spend their time strategizing and adding value to the business. They can worry more about future potential options and less than investigating problems. The truth is, few boards are entirely happy with the quality, timeliness and accuracy of the corporate information they receive.

 Understanding the board’s concerns is the first step toward improving their effectiveness, and ultimately the board’s capacity to focus on improving your company’s strategy.

Timeliness, accuracy, context  and completeness of board information are common gripes. It’s not unusual for boards to receive information in huge slide decks, or complex spreadsheets pieced together manually from multiple data sources. When  a board member finds an arithmetic error, it suggests your numbers can’t be trusted and that means you lose of credibility with some very important people. The board members then conduct their own data checks, which wastes precious time better spent elsewhere.

How does BI help? It ensures that corporate data is analyzed and reported on while still connected to the corporate data source, not taken offline and manipulated manually. BI eliminates the need for disparate, disconnected spreadsheets, where the propensity for errors grows every time data is exported. 

Your board wants the most up-to-date information, delivered in the same format within the same parameters, each month. When data is dated and inconsistent, your board can lose focus. Use zap BI, to set up report structures that are automatically refreshed with the latest corporate data, and ensure reporting is consistent and timely. Set up entire board report packs in this way, so all you have to do for each report is to update the explanatory text – the rest is done automatically. Support this with KPIs, scoreboards, and email alerts to draw attention to the key data.

Is your system guilty of providing too much information in the wrong format at the wrong time? Relevance is another common complaint – most boards only want a high-level view of performance, not in-depth detail that could sideline their attention. For example, boards typically only need to see the overall pattern of your sales pipeline, not details of individual deals. Keeping your board happy is not about increasing information, it’s about having the right information. Many boards might apply the ‘so what’ test to details of day-to-day departmental activities, but they do want to know where the risk lies in the business. For example:

  • What proportion of revenue is tied up with the largest customers?
  • What are the aged debt patterns?
  • What is the variance between budget and actuals this month vs last month, or year on year?
  • What is the cash flow forecast?

BI is geared toward providing high level, visual pictures of performance, such as dashboards and scorecards that are understood instantly, but can also be drilled down for more detailed information when necessary. BI also enables data to be sliced and diced via any dimension, so that results can be examined from numerous perspectives.

When board reporting only focuses on financials, the focus can be too narrow. Most boards want other barometers within the business, such as staff turnover, employee satisfaction, customer loyalty, and demand generation. This is where BI’s ability to bring in information from multiple business systems plays an important role in presenting a united overview of performance.

The opportunity is there to create an open dialog with your board to review the information it is receiving, compared to what it really needs. How much time are you currently wasting producing information the board doesn’t really want? How effective can your board be with the quality of information it’s receiving? And how equipped are you to deal with the rigors of board standards? If you’re pulling information from corporate systems such as Microsoft Dynamics and manually manipulating information offline, the answer is not well.

BI is usually discussed in terms of how it helps internal decision-making. It can also drastically improve the quality and reliability of corporate information provided to your board. For those who are involved in preparing this information, BI valuably cuts down the preparation time.  For the board members consuming the information, consistently trustworthy reports from a well-planned BI solution put the right information into focus and build confidence in a company’s execution.

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