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LESSON - Build a Better Mousetrap and the World Will Beat a Path to Your Door

By Bob Ford, VP Technology Services, PolyVista Inc.

While Ralph Waldo Emerson may be regarded as one of America’s most influential authors, poets, and philosophers, judging by this saying (commonly attributed to him), I understand why “entrepreneur” is not on his list of credits.

In my experience introducing and implementing technology innovations, better mousetraps are built every day, but waiting for the world to line up at your door is just wishful thinking. Introducing step-change innovation involves much more than the technology itself; it involves people and establishing a compelling vision that encourages others to get on board.

This article is targeted to those individuals who are convinced that business intelligence is much more than reports and portals—people who want to deliver innovative tools and techniques to enable their analysts to perform at a higher level, and to exploit the opportunities that their competitors have overlooked. While these goals are admirable, the path forward involves a number of obstacles that must be cleared in order for innovative solutions to take root and grow.

Confucius said, “Only the wisest and stupidest of men never change.” I hope that the rest of us fall into a third category—that is, we are at least willing to consider change as long as we can be shown some tangible benefits for ourselves and/or our companies. As Peter Senge, a noted organizational learning strategist, has observed, “People don’t resist change; they resist being changed.” This implies that a successful transition is contingent upon an individual’s acceptance and belief that there are real and tangible benefits involved.

What follows are some lessons learned in successfully introducing advanced analytical methods into large corporations. While not exhaustive by any means, these featured topics are important to be aware of and address.

  • Corporate inertia (overcoming the status quo)
  • Analyst attributes (what it takes to be a great analyst)
  • Catalyst for change (delivering value)
Corporate Inertia

Employees are constantly under the gun to do more with less. With full plates and looming deadlines, little time or energy is available for investigating new or innovative ideas. IT looks to the business to define requirements for new or improved systems, but the business has no time to explore the possibilities. Thus, they end up asking for more of the same. In this way the status quo prevails and innovation never gets a chance. In fact, there are many who benefit by preserving the status quo and do their best to resist any change. New technologies can challenge their historic power base as their area of expertise loses value. Recognize that not everyone will embrace change, but a solid business case should provide the incentive.

Analyst Attributes

Not all analysts are created equal. Some are clearly more experienced and creative in their approach to problem solving. Those analysts engaged in developing new business insight and solving complex problems will likely share the following attributes:

  1. Deep subject area knowledge and proficiency with computer tools
  2. Respect from within the analytical community
  3. Persistent intellectual curiosity

This unique combination of skills allows these individuals to couple their strong subject knowledge with computer-based techniques to identify, hypothesize, and validate new patterns or anomalies that can yield new business insights and high-value opportunities.

Catalyst for Change

Probably the most important factor in successfully delivering step-change analytics is the identification of a person(s) who is willing and able to drive and grow the program. This individual or team would be:

  • Able to articulate and facilitate the program’s vision and deliverables
  • Respected by and knowledgeable of both the business and IT communities
  • Experienced in navigating corporate politics
  • Experienced in developing business unit alignment and buy-in.

This article originally appeared in the issue of .

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