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Data as Experience: The Executive Role

This is a continuation of my Data As Experience Series.  The last post was on the Data Scientist Role.

The Executive (and other company leaders)

Business Intelligence Developers and IT heads have probably spent more time on this role than any other single reporting or insights need. This makes sense. We expect leaders at all levels to make decisions based on real insight regarding their areas.  Let’s focus on some key elements of what would make executive insights successful.

Context

In many ways, executives are easier to satisfy in terms of where they work than others.  We are still worried about insight in context but executives are more predictable than others.  In general, I expect to see the following in terms of where they work and when they want insight:

  1. At work: on the desktop or laptop. This can be satisfied in your typical executive dashboard
  2. On the road: using mobile device or laptop.  The reporting dashboard may still suffice but now you’ve added a mobile element to it.
  3. When company conditions change: This is the notification context.   A sales leader might want to know when a store drops below certain sales levels. A CFO would want to know when Day Sales Outstanding increases beyond an expected level.

What Leaders Don’t Want

In general, any sane leader in a company doesn’t want to get a data dump.  They want to see actionable insight that’s been pulled and transformed into something that’s easily understandable.  Hopefully the days are past where any leader logs into the reporting portal so he or she can then export the data to Excel and use Pivot tables to see what happens. The less time they spend getting an insight means they spend more time reacting to that insight.

In addition, they don’t want old data.  Every client I’ve seen in the past four years has asked to drop the latency.  Most want it dropped to 24 hours or less.

What Leaders Do Want

Leaders want actionable insight. They want the information presented in a way that allows them to consume and understand immediately.  They want to see insight that directly relates to their business.  This isn’t new but it implies a few things:

  1. Key Performance Indicators (KPI): Yes, you must have them. Every leader whether it be CEO, Sales, Marketing, Operations, HR, etc looks at a few indicators that tell them about the success (or lack thereof) in their area.   Provide a KPI or two and you’ve gone a long ways towards meeting the need
  2. Thresholds: In relation to KPI’s leaders also want to know if some of them are reaching a threshold. This goes towards the actionable item.
  3. Trends: Most leaders will want to know about where the business is now and what the general trend is.  Many common reports will include this trend. For example, a sales lead will almost want to see sales in March 2019 compared to sales in March 2018.
  4. Unique Insights: What cannot be seen as immediately obvious but which will impact the business.  Here we finally get a chance to use a small portion of what data scientists have been doing.  Let me give you an example. One client performed regression analysis on all customers who dropped their product.  They input a wide range of variables including interaction with account execs, license bought, interaction with CSR’s, usage within the tools, etc.  They found one main indicator of a customer who will churn: significantly decreased calls to the help desk in the last 60 days.  This information can then be used to report that to a leader who should be able to then ensure they are talking to this customer
  5. A way to act upon the insight. This might be as simple as commenting or the ability to link and chat on an insight. It might include the ability to kickoff a workflow of some sort.  Don’t forget to ask an executive what they do when they gain a particular insight.   Providing easier action might become a phase 2 but it should still be part of the plan.

Bottom Line

Notice I didn’t prescribe specific reports or report types.  The need for reports and types will vary widely based on role.  The COO will want very different insight compared to a CMO or a VP of HR. But the commonalities exist at a macro.  You just need to dive deep with each leader.  But remember, you want to:

  • Provide easily understandable insight
  • In the context of where they are and how they work
  • While giving them a way to act upon the insight

What’s Next?

Customers have a place in consuming and understanding your data.  Put succinctly, giving a customer key information ties them more tightly to you and your services.

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