What a difference seventy years makes! The illustration below is taken from ad that appeared in US magazines in 1945.
Commercial computers didn’t yet exist, but business people already had a good idea of what computers would be used for: analytics! (And they were right: when commercial computers did finally arrive, in 1953, the very first business application was indeed analytics.)
The ad creators pretty much nailed it. There’s the big geospatial dashboard on the wall, and they’re using video conferencing to review the figures provided by “miraculous electronic devices.” It’s clearly a sales planning call, and they correctly predicted that “intricate calculations of sales by territories will appear as if by magic in the digital age ahead.”
Even the headline is almost perfect: “For Men Who Plan Beyond Tomorrow”. Clearly, the gender issue needs fixing, but otherwise that would still work as an ad for analytics tools today (or, say, the title of a blog post…)
Note that even then, this vision wasn’t really focused on the technology. It wasn’t about “dashboards,” “visualizing data,” “getting insights,” or “data storytelling” — it was about collaborating around a key business process, and making plans to change the future.
Interestingly enough, this was actually an ad for Canadian whiskey — a reminder of an era where executive decision-making and hard liquor went hand in hand!
Fast-forward to today, and technology is finally delivering on that futuristic vision with products like the SAP Digital Boardroom.
Dashboards and other executive information systems are anything but new. But the information has typically been backwards-looking and static, pre-calculated and loaded in advance from various operational systems. Endless time is wasted debating the validity and timeliness of the numbers. And the systems have been inflexible — if anybody asks “well, but what about if we….?” the answer has to wait for the next meeting because the information just isn’t available.
Executives should be able to collaborate around key business decisions, powered by real-time information from every aspect of their business, at their fingertips. Not just seeing what happened in the past, but being able to predict what’s going to happen, and then acting on that information to change the future.
Insights, decisions, and actions must be tightly aligned in a real decision-making process. This requires real-time information systems that lets executives get an overview of insights from inside and outside the organization, and examine the details behind the high-level numbers. They need to be able to apply predictive algorithms, to understand how current events will affect future KPIs. And they need tight links to scenario planning processes, so they can assess and compare different approaches to problems facing the organization.
And these approaches shouldn’t be limited to executives. Every day, thousands of decisions are made around your organization. Telling stories with data can be very powerful, but actually supporting decisions and actions is even more powerful.
Oh — and the whiskey? That’s optional (but check your HR policies!)…
For more about products that combine business intelligence, predictive technology, planning, and support for decision collaboration, take a look at the following video or visit the SAP Digital Boardroom site: