Analytics Beyond the Streetlights

It's an old joke - someone drops their keys in a dark alley, but looks for them under the streetlights, because that's where the light is.  Corporate leadership deals with an equivalent dilemma every day - business analytics are primarily focused under the corporate "streetlights" (Sales, Marketing, Operations, Logistics, ...), but the questions CEOs need answered every day demand insights from across, between, and beyond these analytically well-lit patches of pavement.  For example, Marketing may highlight an upswing in traffic on a new website; but how does that relate to future Sales closings, the ability of Operations to handle fulfillment demand changes, capacity in the supply chain, competitor actions and reactions, ...?  With an ever more turbulent business environment, and increasing volume of insights available, successful corporate leadership is increasingly demanding answers from under, as well as across, between, and beyond, the "streetlights".

 Up to the turn of the century, corporate "streetlights" were few and far between.  Information to support corporate decisions was hard to collect, and expensive to process.  What insights were available to corporate leadership mostly involved highly summarized reports from specific systems within existing functional corporate silos - a report on last quarter's sales, or planned marketing spend, or throughput for critical operations.  Corporate leaders had little or no help tying together insights across these silos with information from between & beyond them. 

With the IT revolution late last century, the well-lit patches of pavement around major corporate functions (operations, manufacturing, sales, marketing, ...) got brighter, more numerous, and closer together.  IT "enterprise systems" became prevalent throughout organizations, along with ability to build reporting, and more recently "dashboards", on top of them; and generally speaking provide better & more sophisticated mechanisms for answering specific questions within existing functional corporate silos.  An entire business function (CIO) emerged, together with legions of vendors and consultants, partly to address the demand for better & better "streetlight analytics".  The number of corporate "streetlights", and the volume of insights from under each, has exploded.

And yet, even with "big data" pouring forth from under the streetlights, CEOs still need to look across, between & beyond to answer their critical questions.  To make matters even more interesting, information from between & beyond the "streetlights" is no longer hard to collect (we're drowning in data), and no longer expensive to process (plenty of relatively simple tools like spreadsheets and in-memory visualization applications).  

Corporate leadership can rely on traditional CIOs for streetlight analytics.  However, modest investment in analytics across, between, and beyond the "streetlights" can markedly improve how insightful an organization is, and also yield significant returns on that modest investment.  In working these kinds of initiatives with Force Five Partners, we've enabled Corporate CMOs to demonstrably lift revenue by tactically linking marketing pilots to metrics provable correlated to sales.  One of our Treasury initiatives returns more than $17 in cash to the treasury for every dollar spent.

Want to get started?  Pick a decision critical to your leadership, pull together a small team across the stakeholders independent of the enterprise, and charter that group with the following principles:

  • Senior corporate leadership supports, enables, and drives the effort forward,
  • Maintain relentless focus on answering questions relevant to the decision,
  • Use whatever tools are appropriate and available to help provide insight for the decision,
  • Wrangle data relevant to the decision out of internal systems, third-party, and open sources, but don't get bogged down in perfecting the data, and
  • Set short-term goals where the initiative is held accountable to corporate outcome metrics.