Data Leaders That Mind the (OA) Gap Will Improve BI Success

Our data show that BI achievement always remains at levels below those set in BI objectives. This BI objectives-achievements (OA) gap in large part reflects that BI objectives should represent aspirational or stretch goals (while remaining realistic). The challenge for data leaders is to manage the BI OA gap in a way that leads change and challenges both users in the organization and data and analytics teams to engage with BI applications more productively, and better measure the business value created.

When properly set, aligned to, and prioritized by organizational goals and business needs, BI objectives should be difficult to achieve. But the fact that BI objective and BI achievement levels remain relatively high and consistent over time means that organizations generally accept the levels of success achieved from their BI initiatives. Achievement levels are high enough that objectives get set anew, and the cycle of business application of BI continues.
Given that the data show levels of BI achievement always below BI objectives, the question then becomes whether an OA gap should represent a concern for data leaders. For the most part, it should not.

Data leaders need to be conscious that BI OA gaps exist and are “natural,” and they should acknowledge such to their teams and executive management. However, they need to carefully manage expectations and related communications so as to not let OA gaps be perceived incorrectly and negatively impact BI initiatives and capabilities. They should talk about OA gaps—assuming that BI objectives are properly set, aligned to organizational-level goals and business needs—as something positive. Like the bed that Goldilocks found to be “just right,” OA gaps should reflect BI objectives that are properly set, aligned to organizational-level goals and business needs, in close-enough alignment with achievement potential to be aspirational (and not too easy), bound to a specific time or deadline, and measurable.

Do not feel compelled to eliminate an OA gap. View a small gap as a good thing. Harder-to-achieve but still realistic objectives can deliver additional business benefits, including fostering innovation, improving efficiency, and raising skill levels. Lack of a small gap or achievement in excess of objectives more likely indicates a degree of complacency and underset objectives, rather than a massive jump in productivity significantly increasing achievement. Data leaders should use OA gaps as a tool to help push their organizations toward continued and greater use of BI and analytics to improve organizational performance through better, more informed, and data-driven business decisions.

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