Cognos CTO drills down on critical BI metrics

Using a business metric merely as an indicator of a result, without understanding whether the result is good nor bad is how organizations can fail to align their business strategies with execution, said a Cognos executive.

The issue, according to Don Campbell, chief technology officer with Ottawa-based Cognos, an IBM company, is that people often use metrics because they can track them but don’t necessarily know what they want in a result. “It’s not just an indicator of a number,” said Campbell, adding that understanding what caused a particular metric result to be problematic is therefore useful in driving change in that metric.

Campbell spoke at the 2008 National IFIC Conference in Toronto Wednesday on how performance management and business intelligence can help an organization better align an often misaligned strategy.

But while metrics are useful indicators in time, they serve as indicators of metrics over time. “It’s less important to say the number is seven,” he said, “than it is to say the number is decreasing.”

Campbell suggested using tools like scorecards to track the history and trends around metrics, and essentially link those metrics with other business intelligence and reporting systems that an organization may already have, and “ties it in as an operational part of the business.”

Scorecards can also be used to understand the relationship between different metrics and ultimately drive other business processes and actions, said Campbell, by allowing users to say “my metric has gone south and it’s going to impact yours.”

And besides scorecards, Campbell said dashboards, too, are a tool that can be used to assemble myriad pieces of intelligence from across the organization into a customized role-based view. The user then can interact with the data using capabilities like filtering by a particular dimension.

But technological changes and new modes of working are driving change in these management tools to create a new environment of information consumption, said Campbell. In particular, the emergence of social networking in the business and the demand by users for ease-of-use interfaces to access rich content are trends that “really can’t be ignored.”

To that point, Campbell demonstrated how management tools will become increasingly collaborative where dashboard results can be shared with other members of the management team and have input provided via an interactive Web 2.0 style.

“The systems of the future integrating all of this business performance knowledge into everything that I do including into my daily calendar is part of where dashboarding and scorecarding is going,” said Campbell.

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