The combination of supermodels and calendars is a proven formula for selling magazine subscriptions or increasing clicks on a website. In the domain of performance management and business analytics software, though, supermodels and calendars are huge barriers to engagement and empowerment.
Supermodels aren't Engaging
We all know "super models" when we see them – countless tabs each consisting of seemingly endless rows of drivers, formulas and outputs. In much of the same way that photographers use photoshop to enhance images in magazine photos, these “super models” are illusions of business performance created by financial analysts using Excel. With the perfect choice of assumptions – tweak headcount here, change sales productivity there – the business will run optimally for the next 12 quarters . . . on the spreadsheet that is.
The trouble is that the business never delivers the results the spreadsheet predicts, because the assumptions on which the spreadsheet is built don't survive first contact with reality. While these models boast incredible precision, they lack the accuracy, clarity and agility to generate insights that keeps pace with ever-changing business conditions. Further, achieving the ambitious goals of the "super model" requires collaboration and coordination across the entire company. What kind of blank stares will your operational leaders give you when you attempt to explain their performance in terms of variances to 150+ "drivers" in your "super model"? Will hundreds of leaders rally behind a plan that's inaccessible and was built without their involvement? The next step in the maturity curve of business analytics is not an even more complex model - it's broader engagement. And, to increase engagement, finance first needs to partner with operations to provide real-time metrics that are relevant, accessible and actionable. When everyone in the company knows which business lever warrants their primary attention, the company is much more likely to move in concert towards achieving their goals.
The Calendar Gap
Calendars are another significant barrier to engagement. Performance management applications overwhelmingly have been implemented to manage financial performance, and, as a result, engagement with these applications is closely aligned with the cadence of the accounting calendar. At most companies, accounting-validated actuals are updated on a monthly basis. By the time business leaders obtain information about performance – typically a week or more after month end – it is too late for their departments to course correct. And, after they see actuals versus budgets versus plan on the day after the close process is completed, why do they need to log back into the application again until next month? During those four weeks that your actuals are waiting to update, your business will win new customers, lose key employees, negotiate new terms with strategic suppliers, and react to competitive forces in your industry. Building a culture of performance requires giving your employees the ability and motivation to engage in performance management more often than once per month.
Consistent Engagement is Key
Performance management applications that adapt to your business processes are more engaging and actionable than “super models”. If your company's growth is dependent on adding headcount quickly, hiring managers in every functional area should easily access forecasts and analytics that map to their own hiring process. Leaders will also engage more frequently with business analytics that aren't completely dependent on the accounting calendar. Healthcare providers, for example, capture patient data every day that enriches their understanding of current and future performance. Hospitality companies can access reservations and customer service survey data that help inform decisions daily, not just monthly. Every industry has these kinds of opportunities.
Companies seeking to re-imagine performance management must evolve beyond the limitations imposed by super models and calendars.