You’ve read them. “Executive Dashboards,” “consistent and precise data mining” — these and other polished phrases promise a quick, easy solution to uncovering business intelligence that drives sales, marketing, product development and other mission-critical operations.
The themes “spun” by the marketing gurus are appealing. The process of capturing and analyzing company information should be effortless, accurate and constant.
In fact, when my partner Tryg Dahl and I recently presented an industry specific business intelligence technology overview at the Hydraulic Institute’s 2013 fall meeting, we introduced the concept of Frictionless Business Intelligence (FBI). As engineers who have worked with and for fluid handling equipment manufacturers throughout our careers, we naturally describe a well-oiled process as “frictionless.” It’s efficient, effective and achieved without jumping through twelve hoops and reciting π to 50 decimal points.
The problem? In our business, the process of gathering, sifting through, sorting and displaying this data in a timely and meaningful way is typically anything but frictionless. In fact, it’s more like driving your car down the street with the parking brake engaged.
Whether you produce pumps, compressors, blowers, valves, couplings, seals, heat exchangers, drivers or related fluid handling equipment, you run headlong into at least one consistent obstacle… an obstacle inherent to the innate complexities of selecting, configuring, pricing and quoting your products. Over the years, your sales and/or engineering teams have created and refined manual or semi-automated quoting systems unique to what you build. While they may be deemed effective, they are not typically fully automated. They often require the injection of large amounts of tribal knowledge and that makes it very difficult for your quoting systems to interface with CRM and/or business intelligence software.
In addition, many companies cling to disconnected selection and quoting tools that also complicate the gathering of data. These common realities — and others — introduce friction to the BI process. Lots of friction. Widget manufacturers can easily install a web-based generic CRM system for quoting and quickly benefit from FBI. However, this is not your world.
As a prerequisite, FBI requires a robust, seamless front-end quoting system which is fully adopted by your sales channels. You can gather BI without it, but it won’t be easy. It’ll take more work by somebody, and it certainly won’t be frictionless. The biggest obstacle to FBI in our industry is not the lack of great BI software to choose from, but rather the lack of great front-end sales implementations. I’m happy to share more about our take on business intelligence and what we’re doing to overcome the resistance.