What happened to ‘What-If’?

I’ve been seeing an increase in blog & twitter traffic around SaaS Business Intelligence (BI), predicative analytics, and better decision making lately.  And it’s great that we’re making strides in information presentation and consumption.  What’s missing though, to me, is a corresponding uptick in information contribution and modeling.

We generally use BI and reporting tools to get at our data, uncover issues, and focus on specific problems.  We’re supposed to then make informed, data-driven, intelligent decisions, and get better results.  But there’s something missing.

  • What do the data and the problems mean?
  • What levers can we pull that will have the right impact?
  • What do we want to do, and how should we do it?

What we aren’t doing enough of is having a robust, forward-looking, inclusive debate around our assumptions, our drivers, our performance and our potential.

We’re not really asking “what-if?”

Imagine if you could ‘what-if’ to your hearts content without having to engineer spreadsheet formulas like this:

=IF(OR(ThisQuarter!I8<=$D$3,NOW()<$D$3),F8)+IF(AND(NOW()>LastQuarter!$D$3,NOW()<$D$5,I8>$D$3),ROUND((H8*(NOW()-$D$3)/30*2%)+F8,0))+IF(I8>$D$3,ROUND(H8*(I8-$D$3)/30*2%,0)+F8)+IF(AND(NOW()>LastQuarter!$D$5,I8=0),ROUND((H8*14%)+(F8*14%),0))+IF(AND(NOW()>LastQuarter!$D$3,I8=0),ROUND((H8*(NOW()-$D$3)/30*2%)+F8,0))

Maybe that’s the problem:  It’s too hard!

  • The right people aren’t involved in the debate
  • The tools are arcane, complex, difficult to audit, and hard to believe
  • The lag between data and decision is too long
  • The process consists of e-mailing around spreadsheets, arguing about their validity and continuing until we give up and make what we hope is a good guess
  • Too hard to build, use & maintain

What if we could what-if on-the-fly to uncover the right scenario and see the right way forward?

Maybe if we make what-if easier, it will part of our everyday job.

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