As I was reading through some recent blog postings by Nikki Baird with RSR (People Don’t Change at the Pace of Moore’s Law) and the Moneyball for Retail series by QuantiSense’s own Garrett Sinclair, their insights made me contemplate the big changes I have observed in the retail business intelligence (BI) sector over the past 20 years.
Let me start with some reflection on retail BI’s past 20 years and how far we have progressed since the early days. In the early 90’s, when we called it “decision support”, very few retailers could even afford a data warehouse. For example, the first Wal-Mart data warehouse database cost around $20 million (in 1990 dollars!); it had 169 Intel-286 processors with over 600 gigabytes of disk space.
Wal-Mart clearly viewed BI as a competitive weapon, allowing their manufacturers in the early days of RetailLink to see inventory levels at the store and use this technology to help scale Wal-Mart at astronomical rates.
The use of BI quickly spread in the coming decades as the decrease in cost of computing power (Moore’s Law) and the advances in database technology and querying tools have provided an environment where today business intelligence is virtually affordable to every retailer, from the start-up in Brazil, to the multi-national conglomerate. In addition, retail BI has seen advances in automation and predictive algorithms, giving us a dizzying array of technology at our fingertips.
But has the average retail staff been able to absorb these incredible tools at the same rate of change? Have the hundreds of millions of dollars invested in retail business intelligence paid off? Nikki’s chart (below) seems to imply that “people changes” tend to lag “technology changes”, so the answer at times is uncle.
This is something that we at QuantiSense think a lot about and discuss with our clients and prospects on a regular basis. What are the keys to getting payback on the BI investment? How does a retailer quickly close the “people gap”?
As you may have guessed, there is no one simple answer for this question. This is a multilayered answer, but it is one that we have studied with our clients who are getting the most from their BI investment. We have broken the success adoption of BI best practices into three areas:
Each of these areas is important, and you cannot have the success by focusing on one or two of the these. All three areas must be executed to get the optimal return.
In coming weeks we will look at each of these areas in detail and discuss best practices around getting the most out of your BI investment. We will also share how to deal with changes to the process and organization in a way that drives adoption at rates that start to come much closer to the increases in the underlying technologies.
Andy Winans, President