Insider Business Club: the intelligent enterprise

Have more companies got business intelligence projects right than

Simon Rustom, MD, Customer Consulting

I think there have been some major mistakes made over the last few years. We
work a lot in the area of customer management and customer data. You can see
from the failure of many of the big CRM implementations that companies have made
painful mistakes and they have had to take urgent corrective action. In my
assessment, a lot of companies went offshore because a lot of the investments in
CRM hadn’t paid off. Some of those investments going offshore are not yielding
what they were predicted to yield either. So you see a succession of mistakes
happening, and you have got to ask the question: what was the data they made
those decisions on in the first place?

Why have some companies failed to secure benefits on the back of their

Mark Salthouse, business analytics and optimisation leader, IBM UK
and Ireland

We need to be not too unfair on these organisations because there has been an
awful lot of good work done in the information space over the years. And the
organisations that are struggling most now have done some excellent work in the

Organisations that have grown by acquisition and grown organically over the
years have pockets of excellence in customer information. But their ability to
bring all that together has been flawed. The problem has been justifying the
expenditure of joining information up across the organisation. We have been
looking at some financial institutions recently and doing some detailed analysis
of what they have actually got. We found one financial services company that had
more data warehouses than it did source systems, because they had been
addressing this challenge for a number of years.

If you have the right information then you can start making much more
intelligent decisions. So there are some big plumbing jobs to be done.

How can companies give themselves the best chance of success?

Marco Kapp, founder, Citicus

People act as though the cost of getting it right is a burden to a company
and we find the absolute opposite. The benefits of getting it right from the
start are massive.

This is an IT age and you really need to know what your investment is in IT –
is it in good shape, is it well managed, is it going through proper approval
processes? And these are not expensive things to put in place. You don’t need
massive technology, you just need to get it right and it is time that people
did. You have to cut through the complication.

How can FDs ensure they use business information intelligently?

Hedley Mayor, FD, Octopus Investments

We are a fast growing company and I think we have been very fortunate to have
had a good IT department from the beginning. So we only have four systems – one
of those being the finance system. Whenever a new project is launched, so far,
we have been able to adjust the software to cope.

There is a lot more that we can do, and that is understood by everybody in
our business. But I think so far we have got it about right.

Our underlying model is relatively straight forward. We have lots of products
but the actual flows from that are quite straightforward. It is something that
we can, and we strive to, improve. That is one of my main roles, tying those
four systems together. It is acting on the information when it comes out that is
the interesting bit.

I interviewed a guy recently who was a group financial controller of an asset
management company that had just gone spectacularly bust. My first question to
him was: ‘Why didn’t you see this coming. If your CV is saying that you were
responsible for budgets and forecasting, why did it happen?’ And he said that
nobody actually believed him. That was the trouble, it was being forecast and
nobody believed the perfect storm that came. That’s the other issue, getting
buy-in from people, not letting them follow their intuition. It is actually
saying we are forecasting this and if a perfect storm is coming, then you better
believe it and start acting. And also the speed at which it happened, there was
very little people could do at the speed at which it came.

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