Achieving operational goals is often hampered when there is a gap between operational strategy and day-to-day procedures. We see pressures rising for management to reduce costs and improve reliability. These demands put a challenge on the leaders who strive to keep their organization ahead of the competition. If you find yourself grappling with operational excellence strategies, this month’s employee spotlight is for you.
Stuart Barnes is a Senior Business Intelligence Architect at Cohesive Solutions, Inc on the Propel team. Propel™ is a performance management solution that can unite disparate data sources and unlock the insights trapped in transactional systems. With Propel, organizations can measure and visualize business outcomes in enterprise asset management, while exposing the impediments to achieving world-class performance.
Stuart’s primary role is product development and working alongside Propel clients, helping them implement new metrics using Propel.
What do you like most about working with Propel?
I most often enjoy the aspects of data analysis. Clients most often know what they want, they just don’t know how to get it. This includes determining what source data we need, how to represent that data in the Data Warehouse (Propel’s Data Vault), then how to summate and present it. Taking data and turning it into information that is valuable to the business is rewarding.
Propel allows us to very quickly expand the data model, identify new data to bring into the model, then summarize and visualize it. With Propel v1.4.5 we can now go from start to end with just the web application and without coding. We still need to code in certain complex cases, but in a lot of instances, Propel is incredibly quick at bringing new metrics to fruition.
What advice do you have for potential clients about to take on the performance management journey?
Start small. Pick a few metrics to start with, gain trust in what Propel is showing you, and be prepared to re-work a metric more than once to get it where you want it. The other idea I try to encourage with clients is to ‘never stop improving.’ Keep expanding what you measure. Keep evaluating if a measure is still bringing value and if it can be altered to increase its importance to the business.
In your position, you have a unique view of what organizations are struggling to correct, what is a common challenge?
One of the biggest challenges is the lack of reporting transparency. Often upper management is given metrics on the performance of the business that has been massaged, typically due to a convoluted set of exceptions. Organizations need to appreciate that a more transparent metric, based more directly on operational data, is far more valuable to the company, as it more accurately reflects what is really preventing the company from firing on all cylinders. However, it may be that the operational data is not being recorded comprehensively, consistently and accurately, so an organization needs to be prepared to address those operational process defects too.
What challenge(s) surface most often in those clients embarking on a performance management program?
We must take the time to refine and define what they want in terms of metrics. The devil is in the detail quite often. It is like peeling an onion, where you think you want X, but after seeing X, you realize you need to consider Y and Z too.
Additionally, the state of customer data is typically worse than they think it is. Sometimes what the customer wants to see is not measurable, as they are not capturing the required inputs in their operational systems, or sometimes they are but not on a consistent basis. This can be addressed before they can rely on their data to give them an accurate picture of how their business is indeed performing.
Have you seen a Propel client reach that ‘aha’ moment?
Yes, for instance, a client rapidly jumps into a discussion about the possible root causes of an anomaly that Propel has highlighted, rather than ask "What does that mean?". This dialogue tells me they have understood what Propel is showing them, especially when they are immediately able to drill into the underlying information via Propel and confirm their suspicions. That brings a smile to my face, as I can see the client is now really focused on improving their business.
What could asset-intensive companies address today for a better future?
Companies need to be more accepting of cloud-based solutions, especially SAAS, such as Propel. Corporate IT organizations need to be more accepting of such solutions and get over an ingrained NIH (Not Invented Here) mindset. I would encourage instead to be looking at how best to leverage the cloud and cloud offerings to the benefit of their business overall.Ready to learn more? Read about the six common challenges overcome by Propel.