Configuration Gives You 2 Secret Weapons To Move Well in Changing Times

These days, few businesses  run without some sort of software.  It can range from just a free internet email account to a full fledged Operation Support System that does everything.  Selecting software can be stressful, for it is most likely something you will live with for years to come.  You will find that all do most of what you need, but few do it all where can afford it.   So selecting  features that are absolutely necessary are critical in this decision.  Business Intelligence tools are no different.  If you are in a changing industry like Convenience Stores, flexibility should definitely be a feature you are not willing to sacrifice.  Regulation, legislation, and market demand are ever changing.  What is critical to monitor now may be of no use to you in the future.  As I read Susan Koss’s article called “5 Benefits Of An Agile, Configurable Manufacturing ERP System ”  I realized that for C-Stores, where change is the constant, configuration should be a major component of whatever you purchase.  Otherwise, in order to keep up with the times, you will quickly find yourself with the high costs of customization and more reports to add to the pile that sits on the corner of your desk, that you never have time to get to.

There are two primary benefits of using Business Intelligence tools that are configurable. Adapting to change can happen at much  lower costs, and its flexibility will give you the ability and propensity to try new things to find its best fit.

COST SAVINGS

January 2016 will ring in new standards for over time where monitoring overtime activities among employees making less than $50,000 will become more important.  These employees will now be classified as Non-Exempt, where if they work over 40 hours week, they will need to be paid overtime.  This new regulation will require a more close watch on their hours, where it had never been a concern before.  If your Payroll, Timesheet or Business Intelligence software has built in alerts that can be configured to alarm you when they work more than 8 hours in a day will save C-Stores large amounts of money as soon as the law goes into effect. If you have to wait for custom development in these programs, you could end up waiting months because of the volume of customers your vendors would have to prepare for this change all at once.  This may be an exaggerated example, as ample time has been given notifying C-Stores of this change, however some situations like this are immediate and cannot be foreseen.  Being able to adapt to them quickly and without the costs of customization can save a lot of money.

FLEXIBILITY

We all know that Social Media is quickly becoming the best way for Marketing to reach the C-Store Customer.  When older systems were built, this was never a consideration.  There are multiple metrics to be measured to determine true campaign success.  Having the flexibility to trial different measurements for something that is new to see what will give you optimal success metrics, without the worry of cost, can be very helpful, especially in a business with such diverse offerings.   This flexibility in reporting can also help you with implementing better plans and budgeting more efficiently in all areas of the business when doing things that you have not done before.  It gives you the chance to try different things to determine the best fit the for the change in your business processes without having to impose large costs to do so.  It allows you to create and implement a Change Management Strategy as opposed to making one plan and hoping for the best.

IT JUST MAKES SENSE

Alert Maintenance

Whether you need to measure the hours worked in a day, or the time or quantity of sales in a category or brand made after a Marketing campaign is launched, these are metrics that were not a concern as little as 24 months ago.  Now these are metrics that will save you money, time and determine performance levels that can have a real impact on your business and your bottom line  To monitor them is a no brainer.

Configuration may not save you in all aspects of change, but it can help you build better strategies to adapt for it, keeps costs to a minimum while going through it and even give you the propensity to adopt new ideas and changes that you impose on yourself, for the sake of doing better business.

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4 Ways Where Trending Will Help You Manage Your C-Store Better

Dictionary.com defines trending as the general course or prevailing tendency. This perspective is a necessary component or perspective to have when evaluating Convenience Store performance.   So if this is so great, why aren’t all companies doing it?

The reason usually points to the time it takes to gather and chart the statistics so you can clearly see how things are trending.  With limits on staffing and time, few companies have the resources to do it.  Business Intelligence tools can help you with that, and good ones will even do it for you.  When you look at the pay off of peace of mind in knowing the decisions are made and based on facts, being able to look forward, and save money based on patterns and trends,  the pay off is much larger than the cost.  There are 4 distinct benefits that trending will give you what you cannot get by looking at a standard performance report.

Tremdomg subway art

1. Proper Perspective
It will give you a proper perspective to determine if performance was actually superior or inferior because you can compare it to performance patterns over time When looking at the above graph showing weekly sale performance, you may think that sales on the last Saturday of the month were phenomenal, because it was so much better than the sales over the past few days. However, when looking at the trending in the diagram you will see that it was actually the poorest performing Saturday of the month.

2. Succinct Scheduling
It will allow you to set scheduling more succinctly. If using the same diagram above you are able to determine your busiest and slowest days to be able to determine staffing needs throughout the week given the trends.

3. Peak Months
The same can be said for inventory levels as well. If you look at sales over a year, you can easily determine your peak months and be able to set inventory levels according to your trends.

4. Patterns of Growth
Of course your biggest gain is seeing how your performance is trending and whether your business is in a pattern of growth or in decline. This allows you to know when action is needed or perhaps when further analysis is required. If things are trending upward, a bad day may not alarm you as much as it would if things were trending downward. Trend analysis removes you from managing by hunch and moves you to doing so by facts. It also can allow you to see how things will be as you go forward to help you prepare for upcoming expectations. The Queensland Industry and Business Analysis website said it best in their Trend Analysis for Business Improvement article:

“Trend analysis helps you understand how your business has performed and predict where current business operations and practices will take you. Done well, it will give you ideas about how you might change things to move your business in the right direction.”

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I Got My Report Card at Work Today

When thinking back to our school years, there was never a day quite as important than the day when report cards were distributed.  A good student was happy, the lazy one started getting creative and prepared their explanation for their parents.   It was the parent who had to sign the card. It was ultimately their responsibility to either praise the child or coach them to do better in the next semester, so that by year end, they could pass to the next grade.  This quarterly or six week routine trained the student to be responsible on their own. It wasn’t until college that we were reported our grades without parental involvement and hopefully we were incented to improve when seeing the result without their involvement.  We were conditioned by the academic culture.   These same principles  are brought to the corporate environment by annual or quarterly reviews.  However, when performance correlates to revenue, one needs to ask, “Is that often enough?”.

 

BUSINESS PERSPECTIVE

If you are a Supervisor, you can probably look at your desk and see a stack or at least one report that shows the result of a person or department on some key performance indicator.  Have you looked at it today?  If there is a deficiency causing revenue loss, how much money will your company lose if you wait until the weekend or next week to review it?  C-stores have a lot of transactions made each and every day.  Each presents the opportunity to gain more revenue than the customer intended to spend, but they also  present the possibility of error, where that customer will not pay fully for what they purchased due to sticker errors, entry errors at the register, and even inventory and/or money being stolen just because it could.  A company with an average of only 300 transactions a day can lose some serious money between now and next week.  By the time  you have  a moment to review and study the report, people tend to forget why what happened did happen, and it all gets get sloughed off as part of the business.  This is because no one has time to monitor each and every statistic where money can leak.  Business Intelligence Tools have become an important part of the business in this industry for that reason.  They do monitor everything and good ones will notify you when there is a revenue leak.  A better one will inform the Store Manager and their Supervisor so that action can immediately be taken to prevent the revenue loss when it begins, where it begins.  This can be done through a daily scorecard or, corporate report card if you will.  Sending the Store Manager a daily notification of where they are in KPI standing, will allow them to correct errors, coach their team or, put more secure measures in place to stop the problems and drive the store to better performance before month end totals get tallied.

 

EMPLOYEE PERSPECTIVE

Benefits of the Scorecard reach beyond  financial gain for the company.  Performance reviews will be better, so increase in pay is possible for the employee because, they are reaching their goals and/or being more proactive when managing their stores.  They also gain a clear understanding of expectations which Dr. Jan West, PHD, of the National Business Research Group touts as being one of the biggest flaws of employers. This is also a much better medium for them to find out they are not performing well than a surprise call by your manager who is asking a lot of questions for which they are not prepared to answer.  BandyWorks Quik Data Business Intelligence software can even be configured to require a response to the Supervisor so they can get their answers,, where accountability is intact.  However, it  also allows the Store Manager to work through and think about the root causes of their issues and how to overcome them before responding.

THE WIN/WIN OF WELL ROUNDED SUCCESS

When problem identification and correction becomes part of daily process it all becomes conditioned and routine, which leads to better, well rounded success.  So take Dr. West’s management practice advice and, provide the feedback your employees want and need to do their very best, and give them their daily report cards.  You may very soon find yourself running out of gold star stickers.

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5 Things Comparing Sales Over Various Time Intervals Will Tell A C-Store

All convenience stores share and print spreadsheets with the latest and greatest performance statistics to let managers know where to focus and what is going well in their company.  However, a single snapshot in time may not really relay what is going on as much as you think it might.  Yes, current spreadsheets will tell you if what was sold in a given time frame was enough, as well as who your best performers are for that time period. But, comparing sales over various time intervals can tell you a lot more.  This will answer questions such as:

  1. Are sales declining or increasing?
  2. Are these results typical for this time of year or is this a variance from the norm?
  3. Who are consistently my best performers?
  4. Which products consistently sell well even when overall sales are in decline?
  5. Are our plans for growth working?

In a nutshell, time comparison provides you with the insight of trend.  Trends better relay whether action is to be taken, and often times what action is to be taken, whether they occurred in the past or are current.  Having a tool that provides visual insight to your specific industry and in a format everyone in your company can understand, only quickens the identification of what are typical trends and what are ones that need correcting.  So, a tool that identifies trends instantly will resolve problems much sooner than paper reports and  manual tracking.  Compare BI.com  wrote the following:

“How Visual Insight Business Intelligence Reporting Works

Visual Insight translates the data from the business intelligence reporting into visualizations which makes it easier to read and understand. Because being able to read and understand your data is so important.  This has worked well for a multitude of different companies and has saved a lot of time consuming work by IT departments. This not only benefits your employees but your company as a whole.”  It takes the element of the time comparison to automate and provide the visualization of the trend.  It takes a tool to analyze all  that is required to identify trends.”

You know that looking at the same convenience store data in different time frames will give you different information.   Using Over/Short data in a daily view will make you  aware of problems as they arise, so they can be addressed. But, monthly views of this same information may point out a trend, which may be stemming from a training issue, which is more serious.

C-Store sales viewed in the monthly view, may give you an idea if you are to hit your goal, but a yearly view will give you a more definitive way to define which way sales are trending, and if trending downward, where larger projects may be needed to turn things around.  Until you see the overall effect, you may be unsure what the monthly trends mean to your business.  Things go up and down each day in this industry.  The overall view gives you the result of the trend.  This view can also measure improvements, marketing program success and management performance.

Annual views will provide you with an even higher level of understanding.   When you grab a snapshot of your overall sales over a period of years, and compare it to the monthly sales, over that same period it will let you see when things  rose or fell.  This will lead  you to a better understanding of your trends and, when you need to plan for defensive strategy during the year, to make sure next year’s overall results will show improvement

Depending on what you want to investigate, having the option to look at information in different time frames will give you the different perspectives you need to make sound decisions. Where one will provide you with the symptom, the other may provide you with the answer because it identifies the core problem.  However, you wouldn’t know what to look for until you saw the symptom.

Here are some examples of these two views showing this information from BandyWorks’ Quik Data product.

Annual Comparison3 Year ComparisonMonthly Sales Over that Period of Time3 year trend

When observed only on a daily basis, data can look sporadic.  There are good days and bad days whether you are trending in the right direction or declining.  Only over time can you determine which way things are truly heading.  The coordination of using these different views in synchronization is how you get results with the Business Intelligence tool.  Having easy access to all different views at once makes it possible.   

While analyzing all of the data as it relates categories to locations and managers, over time in a manual method is not feasible on a daily basis, having a tool to do that for you will make your company more responsive, help it zero in on the right activities and help it find its way to better performance.

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The Balancing Act of Control

One of my favorite articles read this year was Lori Deshene’s50 Things You Can Control Right Now”. It was a rare gem I found on the Tiny Buddha Website. While there is much in the world out of our control, there are many things we can do to counter the lack of control we have otherwise. On the flip side of this, Anthony of the MixinFitUp.com site wrote “What Happens To You When You Stop Trying To Control These 6 Things ”  For those that are curious:

 

 

 

Six things to stop trying to control:

  1. Other people’s opinions
  2. What others say about you
  3. Time
  4. Death
  5. Traffic
  6. The Past

Both articles promise a happier, more productive life if you follow their advice and, when you read them, you can’t help but agree with both. The moral to this is that it quickly becomes obvious that control is a balancing act. This is why the Management job is such a complicated one. While you are responsible for the results your department has, you are relying on others to get you to your goals. While you may not be able to control what your employees and co workers do, you can control who those employees are?  If one is not doing what is expected, you can let them go, and if you feel your co-workers are not meeting your needs, you can go work elsewhere.   When it comes right down to things, there if very little one really can control other than their behavior and actions.

Let’s say the price of fuel may go up causing less traffic to come into your C- stores.  You can either grumble and use it as an excuse for poor sales, or look for ways to increase the average amount of sale of the traffic you are getting, by running specials, or promoting reward programs while you have more time to spend with each customer. to get long term value from them.  Another example would ve working with your vendors.  If you do not like their new pricing, you have the option of seeking other brands and can let them know it, hoping to drive down the price.  However,  if it s a brand you must have, then perhaps you can negotiate a longer term contract to lower the price.  Another example would be an employee always showing up late for work, or not even showing at all. You can’t go to their house to pick them up each day to ensure they are coming in, but you can create accountability and warn them that you will let them go and replace them with  a more reliable employee.

These differences are subtle, but one is based on your needs, the other approaches are mutually beneficial.  By putting consideration to all sides of a situation, you can quickly gain control of a situation or at least your part in it.  It is a balance of your needs and that of the opposing force making you feel you are losing the control that will help you recapture it. You will find, as you manage, if you look for mutual benefit when trying resolve situations spinning out of control, you will get much better results.   There are things you should try to control and things you should accept that you cannot. The balancing act of deciding which is which is a skill well honed by opting for mutual benefit.

 

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How All C-Stores Can Afford to Use Their Back Office Data

Customizing your reports is not a new concept. Most Business Intelligence and even some Back-Office tools come with standard reports, but this usually entails data that you can currently get from your Back-Office system already. There are core areas of activity that impact the totals these systems give you that need to be watched and measured in order to totally understand why the totals on those existing sheets are what they are.

Most companies have certain metrics they measure, for instance, one company measures how many coffee cups the sell each day. A generic BI tool will not give you this information without some form of custom development. With a configurable product you will probably only need to know the UPC code, and the report can be created in very little time. When it doesn’t cost anything, you will be surprised to see how many ideas you may have to improve your business through the performance measurement process. There are report writing tools, and business intelligence tool. An ideal tool for Convenience Stores is to find one that will do both

C-Stores have a unique mix of data to correlate so they can completely understand where their issues and opportunities lie. Knowing sales amount by location usually is not enough to help you get to core issues that reside in those stores to help you understand why they may be failing.  These reports identify a symptom, but not the root cause of an issue.

To get to the data that can help them identify core issues, C-Store companies are often led to the expense of customization in their reporting. Not only is there the development cost, but the cost of time and resources to define what will be on the report,  the time waiting for development to occur, and in some cases, even maintenance costs. Depending on the complexity of the report, or the number of systems it has to touch, will determine its costs. Because of the various activities, programs and detail, C-Stores have to deal with, custom reports through software development can be rather costly. This forces a company to evaluate the benefits of the customization and whether the trade off would truly be in their favor.  The need  has to become a choice.

  • What would the frequency of use be in such a customization?
  • What is the possible savings it could generate with it’s use?
  • How many people in the company would find it of value?
  • How soon would the ROI be realized?
  • How much does it cost to extract this information through manual means?

Ask several of the larger chain CEO’s and they will tell you that your back office data should not be ignored if to succeed in this industry. So how does the small to mid size retailer get the reporting it needs without depleting all of their profits? The answer is to look for BI tools that offer configuration. Finding one that is built for C-Stores will prevent the expense of any customizations you would need with a generic Business Intelligence tool.   These are tools that provide a templates that allow you to create your own reports, that will allow you to drill down to the areas of activity that impacts the results of the higher level reports. This help you adapt to the times and changing plans at no cost and it will put you on the same playing field with the larger companies.

Time is another consideration when deciding to go custom vs configuration.  Sangeep Cherry wrote ” Customization vs. Configuration: The Effect on Deployment Velocity” which is an article  that relays the  benefits of configuration when it comes to deployment.  The end result is that the report can be produced and rolled out much more quickly when configured.

If is for these reasons that it is recommended that when investing in reporting to run your business, you will receive much more value from a configurable product than opting for one that would require customization.

  • It will allow you to obtain the view of things when you need to see them, without cost or having to wait to do so.
  • It will give you the ability to see what your issues are where they are happening.
  • Its use can be cost justified because specialized reports would then be possible across multiple projects.
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3 Insightful Features to Consider When Purchasing Business Intelligence Software

If you break the word insight down to in-sight, the power it gives you is easier to comprehend.  It is easier to correct problems, or avoid troubles when they are known and seen.  While spreadsheet reporting will give you insight into the most critical issues, it can be the little issues that impact the bottom lines of those reports.  That is the basic premise behind Business Intelligence tools. Having a visual presentation gives you quicker insight into overall performance. A good BI tool will lead you to those smaller details, once the larger issue is identified. The better your tool is, the smaller the revenue bleed you will experience. There are three considerations, that are often overlooked, that you should look for when selecting such a tool.

1)  Automation

Because it is an automated measurement, it is easier to gain insight more often.  Take advantage if this and look for ways it will automate outside of reporting.  A good BI tool will allow you to drill to the core problem after finding the symptom. That involves bringing the smaller details into the analysis.  This is how the king stores stay on top.  They check and measure these detailed items frequently without drowning themselves in analysis. Yet they catch revenue loss as it begins.  Automation makes this frequent review possible.  Building a process by automating the routing the information it provides to the various people in your company can also have a very positive impact on management objectives.

2) Presentation

Presentation must be comprehensive.  There are a lot of things that could cause revenue to fall.  Falling revenue is usually a symptom of a core problem or, failing process, somewhere within your operations.  29294526_sWhen selecting a tool to gain insight, it is important that the tool tells you the things that could cause the loss.  This is done by setting thresholds.  Having the ability to set thresholds will refine your presentation by telling you the details, only when you need to be aware of them.   Having the ability to view these details easily and, only as needed, will tend to make you use this capability and therefore, respond to the issue more quickly, preventing revenue loss.

If you are fortunate enough to find a tool that has geo-coding where the alerts are segregated by location, you will not only know what the problem is, but where to resolve it.  The best presentation comes down to presenting the analytic findings into a meaningful and interpreted view so you immediately know what to do when issues are presented.  Adding the dimension of the location will tell you where the action is to be taken, and eliminate time spent seeking out the location of the problem.

3) Comparison

Another valuable feature is time comparisons.   How a store is comparing to others in various time periods can provide great insight into marketing, purchasing needs, staffing needs and many other areas of your company.  It is also a great way to set goals and identify trends.  A more intrinsic value is that allows each store to compete with itself, giving them the ultimate apple to apple competition they need to improve.  This type of insight is just so much more obvious when the report is visual as opposed to being spread over multiple spreadsheets.

Operations Tab 09 2015

 

Purchasing any software can be difficult in a company.  You want to make sure it will meet your needs for it will probably be with you for quite a while.  When you look a these three characteristics of BI software you will find that they are the reason you are buying the product in the first place. You want to be able to gain insight more quickly, to head trouble off as it happens and, use it as a tool that enables you to make the decisions that run your business knowing you have the information that you need, when you need it.

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3 Important Pillars in Teamwork: An Excerpt from The Serenity of Accountability

“Remember teamwork begins by building trust. And the only way to do that is to overcome our need for invulnerability”     ~Patrick Lencioni~

Teamwork
Having a culture of accountability implies an organization that works together. Teamwork is the mechanism that enables it to overcome individual limitations and fears to produce results that cannot be achieved otherwise. It requires members to share, trust, give time and contribute t an overall purpose.

1) Purpose
Team work is a natural desire for many – we want to belong to something of which we are proud. The teamwork required for accountability starts with a vision. Team members that share this vision will naturally enjoy the benefits of having a team working to fulfill it. Such a purpose helps to drive healthy competition. It requires individual talents yet demands adherence to a share a code that puts the group first.

2) Trust
Trust comes from consistency over time. Building a track record of delivering on promises is a great way to build trust. Ironically, making mistakes can also be a great trust builder. Everyone makes them, but not everyone deals with them with integrity. The willingness to admit mistakes saves time and creates trust. After one admits to a mistake, it is much easier to change behavior to avoid repeating the same mistakes. Such changes improve processes and increase productivity. Once the fear of reprisals for making a mistake is removed, there is less inertia to perform new tasks or take on a difficult assignment. Nonetheless mistakes are never fun to admit and share. When they do occur, great teams focus on the future – how to resolve the issue and how the entire team can avoid them going forward.

3) Time
There is no way to avoid taking time if teamwork is to be promoted. It takes time to listen and debate an issue. It takes more time to address performance that is not optimal. Taking short cuts to save time always make things worse. Leaving unacceptable behavior alone sends a message that accountability and responsibility to the team are not critical. In order to have a team participate time is consumed in emails, calls, messages or meetings. How else can the team listen, share clarify and analyze plans, problems or situations? Thus the challenge to teamwork is the regular work pressure that takes away time, focus or energy from the team activities. Not taking enough time to address issues early means there will be time later to address it or the consequences of it Teamwork is the key for organization growth as problems can be solved faster by
a) Bouncing ideas
b) Resolving impasses
c) Using different perspectives
d) Sharing knowledge
e) Matching skills and tasks
f) Improving inefficient methods
g) Balancing work loads
h) Eliminating wasted work

For a limited time, BandyWorks is offering the just published book, The Serenity of Accountability  for free.  If you would like to gain a peace of mind in knowing that processes are in place to identify  issues and have them addressed as they occur in your company, without your intervention, simply call (804) 733-8844 x 111 and ask to have a copy sent to you today!

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3 Free Ways to Motivate Employees Out of a Rut

Motivation is not an easy thing to create.  If your pockets are not endless, you are staffing at minimal levels or your business cannot sustain downtime, it is hard to find things you can do to motivate employees.  More money, time off or company events aren’t possible.  So if this is the case, how does management motivate employees when things get in a rut? 1) Show Personal or Corporate Appreciation More than likely, every employee at some point is doing something well.  Create categories and print awards for them to accumulate.  There are many free online graphics you can grab that you can use to create them. Present them at your meetings and spur that sense of pride that motivates.  In the article “7 Unusual Ways to Motivate Employees“, Eric Markowitz, suggests something as simple as sending a simple hand written thank you note. 2) Train Them on Something New Cross Training is an easy way to pull someone out of their rut. It gives them exposure to more of the companies process giving them a peak at the big picture. It can also come in handy when staff availability is low. 3) Create a Special Day   Have a crazy hat day,  or something else that everyone will find amusing to help your employees bond with one another.  It will break up the monotony of every day routine and it will even amuse your customers for they will enjoy seeing your employees having some fun.  Christina Galoozis suggests an off hours video game contest  in her article “6 Ways to Motivate Employees by Using Little to No Money” We all know that motivation comes from within, but it doesn’t hurt to kick into gear so it can be easily found.  Though expensed motivators  yield the best results, there are ways to motivate your team that cost nothing.  Creating a workplace of fun and reward of any kind will yield great results and people will take pride that they are taking part in a company that has that type of environment.

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Are You Playing the Telephone Game in Your Reporting?

As a child, you may have played the game called, Telephone.  It is where people sit in a circle and one whispers a statement into the ear of the person sitting next to them.  It continues until everyone has had a turn to heard to relay the statement until it reaches the last person who sits  before the original whisperer.  Then, that last person says the statement.   Almost every time, what they say and what the original person said are never the same.  It can create quite a few giggles at a slumber party, but in business, it is rarely a good thing because,  it is a distortion of reality.  It us fairly safe to say  that if managers are making decisions on what is not real, then it is very easy to make wrong decisions.  When data is trickling upward through layers of people in an organization through hearsay, it is likely that the answers are going to be distorted. If you company is using multiple reports and sources to provide answers to basic questions, then it may be time to revise your reporting strategy.  You may not be getting answers from the data that you think you are.

So how exactly can data get distorted in reporting? After all, it is usually just a matter of numbers and simple math.  There are a few reasons this could happen:

  1. Somewhere along the reporting path there may be a different perception of what the question is or how it should be answered
  2. The question asked of the actual person who answered the question was not answering your question in its entirety
  3. Different and conflicting resources may be needed to provide the answer
  4. There may be a variable in time frame from when the question was asked to when the answer was delivered
  5. People tend to tell superiors what they want to hear and will deliver the news in a manner that hides a problem

So the challenge becomes getting low level performance statistics through multiple layers of management.  The larger the company is, the larger this problem becomes. No one is intentionally lying, but the answers are distorted all the same. The only way to avoid this is to place an automated process behind the questions where you rely on their answers to make decisions and run your business.  This is  the underlying theory of Business Intelligence.  Direct your questions to your data and actual facts and real numbers will answer them.  You know best how the answers can be derived, how you want them delivered to you and when you want them.  Automation allows you to take control of this process.  What may be even more important is make sure everyone in the company can see what those questions and answers are, so everyone may operating from the same page.   It is this understanding of the KPI that creates a culture of success in performance.  It is automation that enables the understanding.  If you are the only one receiving the answers, then it may not be fair to hold people accountable if the answers are repeatedly not the ones you want to see.

If to correlate this to the Telephone game, the value of automating and communicating your reporting is to be certain that the question or statement will be the same regardless of the position of who speaks up in the corporate circle.

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