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May 16, 2010

Innovation and Analytics

Innovation and analytics often are seen as opposing concepts. Many argue that innovation –which is often glorified as a moment of genius – cannot be reduced to a set of processes. Or even worse, to a set of metrics.
Last week, I presented about this very subject with Lego CIO Henrik Amsinck at the Business Performance Conference in Florida (check out my video recap of Day 1 @ & Day 2 @
This week, I’ll be speaking at the 2010 Palladium EMEA Summit in Madrid and will be part of a roundtable panel with Drs. Kaplan and Norton of the Balanced Scorecard to continue the conversation on the future of innovation and analytics.
There is a large body of research on innovation from the late C.K. Prahalad to Jim Carroll, Edward de Bono and others. However, few mention the importance of analytics as part of the innovation process. Our research has shown that innovative companies share these cultural traits:
1. Constant search for feedback. Innovative organizations don't just tolerate experimentation; they look for opportunities to experiment, measure and learn. This process allows them to clearly understand the difference between correlation, causality or coincidence. A few months ago, I crossed paths with Steven Levitt, the author of Freakonomics. In his speech, he mentioned that his golf swing had only improved after he started measuring swing performance with the help of a small device. This might be a simple example but it begs the question: does your organization have a system by which it measures the detailed impact of your experimentations?
2. Ability to learn from greatness. Does your management team stop to understand what's behind the things that make you great? While I won't go as far as Alex Bogusky and suggest we stop learning from our failures, I note that, when it comes to analysis, our brains seem to be programmed to “rush to the red indicators." I'm not arguing that you shouldn't solve bad performance (or bad measurement), but I'd like to make the case that an organization that doesn't know and doesn’t analyze what makes it great, will have a hard time innovating.
3. Clear communication on competitive strategy measurement. I had the opportunity to meet Geoffrey Moore a few months ago and discuss his point of view on innovation (one of my favorite articles of his is "Top 10 Innovation Myths.” Moore's point is that innovation without competitive context can be dangerous. If you understand what makes your organization unique, have you communicated clearly how you measure your competitive edge to your employees and partners? This will help innovate in a way that reinforces your competitive advantage.
4. Readiness for innovation to come from anywhere. Innovation can come from the most unexpected places. Take the example of research officer John Szilagyi, who, by suggesting a simple change to tax returns, generated nearly $3 billion in revenues for the IRS. When he first presented this idea, the government wasn’t ready to implement it. It wasn’t until they were looking for new revenue, that they were ready to consider it. Is your organization sitting on such ideas? And is it possible that you are overlooking similar innovative approaches because they don’t relate to metrics you are not measuring yet?
If you have any feedback, I’d love to hear it! You can contact me at or ping me on twitter @brunoaziza.
Bruno Aziza
Co-author, Drive Business Performance
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Posted by Bruno Aziza at 3:15 PM | Comments (0)

May 3, 2010

How are Analytics related to Innovation?

This week, my co-author Joey and I will be speaking at innovation events. Our speeches will explore the role that analytics play with innovation.

More specifically, we will attempt to start a conversation around the below items:

1) Where does innovation come from?
2) What context is required for effective innovation measurement? (strategy, culture, people?)
3) How can you best measure innovation?

The subject can be controversial. We will argue that innovation is a process, rather than an event, and that an appropriate culture needs to be fostered in order to increase innovation across the entire organization.

Our research shows that innovative cultures rest on the proper incentives, of course, but that acceptance plays a big role. By acceptance, I mean the constant search for feedback (rather than just the tolerance) and leadership's commitment to empower all individuals to experiment, make mistakes quickly and cheaply and learn from them. When this happens, incredible results can be gained: I recently discussed these concepts at a conference in Canada (see my video-blog on this at There is a lot of research on this topic from the great work of late C.K. Prahalad to Jim Carroll, Edward de Bono and many others.

In fact, I had the opportunity to meet Geoffrey Moore a few months ago and discuss his point of view on innovation at the core, and his thoughts on competitive differentation and innovation. If you are not familiar with his work on innovation, take a look at his "Top 10 Innovation Myths" article and comment @ - great read!

Given that many of the readers of this blog are experts in the areas of decision making and information management, I can't help but ask:

1) In your mind, what is the role of analytics in innovation?
2) How would you measure innovation in a way that does not constrain the creative mind of your employees?

Join the conversation! go to @

Bruno Aziza
Co-Author, Drive Business Performance
On twitter @brunoaziza
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Posted by Bruno Aziza at 5:30 AM | Comments (3)

April 12, 2010

It's Hyundai, like Sunday!

Business Intelligence often is associated with optimization, innovation and prediction. But Business Intelligence and analytics also are powerful tools for sharpening competitive skills.

Not long ago, Fortune magazine detailed the ferocious competitive drive that is turning Hyundai into a global automotive force. Among the company's key tools: Turning competitive insights into new ways to do business. To read more about the Hyundai example, please go to

What are some of the most vivid examples you have heard of, that exhibit the use of BI for competitive advantage?

Bruno Aziza
Co-author, Drive Business Performance
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P.S. If you are wondering about the origin of this post's title, take a look at this short video @ A great and funny way for Hyundai to talk about their competitive focus to their customers.

Posted by Bruno Aziza at 12:15 AM | Comments (0)

April 11, 2010

Can Business Intelligence be funny?

I'm looking forward to next week's Gartner BI conference in Las Vegas. I hope that many of you will be there. If you are and want to connect, give me a ping @

As I was preparing for the event this week, I was reminded of the creativity Gartner has exhibited in helping the business intelligence discipline be more fun.

For instance, they have a music band - "the data junkees" and a lead title: see last year's performance @ (they did it again in London this year, wonder what they will sing this time in the US).

Last year, they also had Garth Sudem who took us through his book, Geeklogic - very entertaining.

This week, I came accross , creation of Andy Bitterer, a lead BI gartner analyst. Some of the cartoons are just hilarious - check them out!

Do you know of other examples that bring fun to BI?  Email them to!

Bruno Aziza
Co-author, Drive Business Performance
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Posted by Bruno Aziza at 11:15 PM | Comments (2)

March 29, 2010

Got Insights?

This week, I had the opportunity to present at a global summit, in Vancouver, Canada. The event was chaired by Geoff Colvin, Senior Editor of Fortune and included great speakers such as Steven Levitt, author of Freakonomics and SuperFreakonomics.

As I was reflecting back on the sessions and the many discussions I had with attendees, a key theme kept coming back to me: you can summarize it by calling it "Unusual insights….coming from unusual sources."

For instance, we were reminded of the example of UPS, which saved 3.1 million gallons of fuel by optimizing routes to prioritize right turns. Steven Levitt shared with us the story of one IRS employee who had come up with the idea that saved the IRS Billions...yes...Billions of dollars. If you want to know more about these stories, feel free to watch my 3 min video blog at

Many of these insights were obvious but some were less. It feels however that the real discovery here has less to do with the answer than it has with asking the question! What did it take in each of these examples to enable the answer? (here, I don't mean the enabling technology, but the courage to ask the question and the tenacity to look for the right answer).

Do you have similar stories?

Share your stories and also tell us where the insights come from. A regular employee, an intern, a manager, an executive?

Bruno Aziza
Co-author, Drive Business Performance
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UPS story @
IRS story @

Posted by Bruno Aziza at 2:30 AM | Comments (0)

March 16, 2010

What's your definition of "Analytics" (Part 2)

In my last post, I asked people to explain in simple terms the word "Analytics" and provide examples to make the definition come to life.

I knew that the discussion would be topical but I didn't anticipate that the responses would be so numerous! (if you'd like to know in less than 3 mins what others say about analytics, watch the video recap @ - others, read on!)

What did we learn so far?
* Analytics are often associated with prediction: Many associated the term "Analytics" with the idea of prediction - meaning that, while metrics might focus on the past, "Analytics" are best used to predict the future.

* Analytics are somewhat different from KPIs: While the difference between KPIs and Analytics wasn't highlighted much, many expected "Analytics" to be visual and provide a story behind the actual numbers. While "Analytics" might be the results of sophisticated statistical models and combine the wisdom of multiple measurement points, they should display information to allow anyone to understand trends and work with them quickly.

* Analytics are primarily created in the business: Some argued that while BI requirements were often assigned to the CIO's office, "Analytics" requirements should be assigned to functional heads (CFO, CMOs..etc) because they typically need to be customized based on the appropriate business questions.

Finally, some argued that "Analytics" are unique to a company. Many talked about the competitive advantage that analytics can represent for an organization.

Which leads me to another question: if analytics are so unique, and if they result in the combination of technology and the knowledge that only your employees have, can they ever be packaged?

What do you think? The discussion continues @ , now with views from IDC, Forrester and TDWI experts.

Join in!

Bruno Aziza
Co-author, Drive Business Performance
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Posted by Bruno Aziza at 12:15 AM | Comments (0)

February 21, 2010

What's an "Analytic"?

The term "analytic" has been used quite a bit over the years in blogs, books and other forums.

The term is becoming so used lately that business leaders are starting to feel confused by what it means. Some ask: is an "analytic" a new term for "business intelligence", is it the same as a "key performance indicator (kpi)"?

Of course, analytics have been in existence for many years and books such as "competing on analytics" have participated in raising visibility to their importance. However - the understanding of what they are and what they can do, might have been reserved to a small crowd of people inside the organization.

If you are an IT leader, you want to avoid dragging people into esoteric debates. You want to clarify the definition of analytics, their key attributes so you can focus your team and colleagues on what really matters: driving better business performance.

On the back of events such as last week's Predictive Analytics World or "PAW" - what would you say your definition of the term an "analytic" is? How would you describe it with simple terms for folks who haven't been in the space for years? Do you have examples that you use and have worked for you?

Come discuss @

Bruno Aziza
Co-author, Drive Business Performance
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Posted by Bruno Aziza at 11:30 PM | Comments (0)

February 2, 2010

How Will We Make Decisions in the Future?

A little less than a month ago, I asked people via multiple networks and forums what they thought business intelligence would look like in 2020.

I received some great predictions and I'm summarizing them for you in a short video @

Some folks were cautious in their forecasts. One respondent told me that maybe – just maybe – if by 2020 we have solved quality and integration issues, and if continue to improve usability and make the use of mash-ups more efficient, we'll finally get to the point where non-technical users finally benefit from BI without involvement lot of help from IT.

Others predicted that data sources won’t even matter anymore. Even search engines might be passé. They argued that people will be able to ask questions to a computer that is smart enough to ask for clarification before answering the question. This ties well with a prediction I heard – and that is supported by our own work on natural user interfaces – that verbal communication with a computer could soon be common.

Finally, two respondents said that spreadsheets might be less important in the future and that people will favor technology that pushes answers to them, rather than requiring people to look for the right information.

These predictions can help all us picture the future for business intelligence, and perhaps align our actions to make it happen.

My own bets for business intelligence in 2020 include the notion that collaboration and business intelligence will be linked more closely so that it becomes more obvious that decisions are based on hard data as well as the knowledge and opinions from co-workers, partners and friends.

I also agree that data sources won't matter to end-users. I actually don't know that they should matter to people today. I hope that technology will guide people’s decisions more efficiently because it can filter out irrelevant information and focus on information that improves insights and actions.

Last but not least: Culture will change. A culture of performance is the one factor that allows organization to gain continuous success across multiple generations of people and technology. I see day after day the rewards and competitive advantage organizations gain by moving from a gut-feel type of management style to a more rigorous, data-driven decision-making system.

If you have any feedback or thoughts, please feel free to email me directly at

Posted by Bruno Aziza at 6:00 AM | Comments (1)

January 24, 2010

Does social media make us more honest?

This year, the World Economic Forum explores the influence of social networks at the start of the Annual Meeting 2010 in Davos. The discussion is moderated by Loïc Le Meur, Founder of Seesmic and includes, among others Gina Bianchini, CEO, Ning, George Colony, CEO, Forrester Research, Reid Hoffman, Founder, LinkedIn, Owen Van Natta CEO, and Evan Williams, CEO, Twitter.

You can submit questions to Davos as videos, so...if you don't like to read, watch the 3 min video version of my question at

==> My question is: "Do you think that social media helps people and companies become more honest?"

I believe that social media will help and based my argument on the below observations. However, I would like to hear what the panel has to say.

1)Transparency: social media enables information to be shared faster than ever before. Of course, transparency can be scary for some, especially if your "friends" publish your information or photos without your permission. However, with transparency comes accountability - if you state on your Facebook page that 'you never drink' and your friends put up photos of you can run into some credibility issues. This principle is true for individuals and companies. It presents particular challenges for organizations who mislead customers as their modus operandi, and that's a good thing.

2) More intelligent use of social media: the ability to find information across multiple social networks simply by searching allows many of us to figure "what a person or a company is about". This technique is well used by recruiters who search the web and look up people's profile prior to bringing them in. Consumers are now more sophisticated in their use of social media - particularly prior to making a buying decision. While their perception of a product might have been shaped by an organization's marketing efforts in the past, they now can solicit their networks for reviews. Given the importance we put on the opinions of our network, the little information a few trusted friends can provide will outweigh any marketing dollar the selling company can invest in trying to change our perception.

3) Consumers at the center of companies 'brands: now that everything is in the open and that consumers have a channel to broadly express their opinions, companies have to be more honest with their customers. Let me provide an example. I had a layover in Paris on my flight from Seattle to Copenhagen. My flight to Copenhagen was delayed so I sat down to check email and my FB page. I immediately let my FB network know that I was delayed in Paris. Within minutes of sitting down, I got an email from the airline company apologizing for the delay….wow...when was last time you got this level of care from an airline? The email isn't much but it indicates that the airline understands that my dissatisfaction could impact others. Given the airline doesn't know me and doesn't want to take the risk that I might influence a large network of their clients - they want to proactively reach out to me.

There are, of course, positive ways by which social media makes people want to be more honest - but I thought I would highlight the ones that I believe offer the most pressure.

What do you believe? Join the conversation @

Bruno Aziza
Co-author, Drive Business Performance
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Posted by Bruno Aziza at 1:15 PM | Comments (0)

January 18, 2010

Culture of Performance on Radio this Wednesday!

If developing a culture of performance is one of your objectives for 2010, you are in luck! We are making it increasingly easy for you, your team and colleagues to access the content you need to achieve your goal.

This Wednesday, we will be launching a Radio show, focused on the culture of performance. "Untapped Insights" features research from our book and provides guidance in plain English.

Our first show includes Bob O’Brien, Senior Director, Business Analytics Media & Entertainment Group at Microsoft.

- Check out the video preview of the interview @
- To attend live, click @
- Subscribe to it by clicking @

(First 200 live attendees get a free copy of Drive Business Performance).

The show will be interactive and offers a forum for debate. If you have questions, prior, during and after the show, email me @

Finally, don't forget to follow on Twitter @ twitter.combrunoaziza to stay in touch!

Bruno Aziza
Co-author, Drive Business Performance
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Posted by Bruno Aziza at 6:15 AM | Comments (0)