How a small startup grew to amazing heights by adopting an organizational BI culture.
I remember joining a small promising BI platform startup a few years ago, small office with no more than 20 people, everyone doing everything, from sales to support, product, marketing, training, professional services and more. Cooking up lunch for everyone in the office, and staying ridiculously late every night with beers, just to get more work done. It was fun and very challenging yet at times felt inefficient and frustrating due to a lack of a wider perspective. It was a semi organized chaos, one that could only let a small startup with extremely talented people and a groundbreaking and disrupting BI product fire a rocket to space, so to speak.
We had goals and targets, though due to the hectic and disorganized achievement management at the time, many of them weren’t maintained, managed or even planned.
We were managing and implementing dozens of concurrent BI projects and processes for our clients, providing POC’s, educating and evangelizing not only on how to use the product, but also to instill a BI way of life into their organization, while we were still stuck in excel reports and other spreadsheets to manage our own progress.
And then it hit us, we were to drink our own champagne.
That’s it, we realized it, we need to monitor ourselves, plan ahead by setting realistic targets, not by what we felt was right, which may have been the right way to go as a start, rather by how the data was dictating for us. We wanted to learn from yesterday to improve today, to grow tomorrow. The excel sheets or other forms of tracking and reporting were simply not cutting it anymore. Every time a new item was added, completed or simply updated, everyone would have to be aware of the change, update the sheet in a manual process, it was tiring and cumbersome, let alone the fact that we were dealing with multiple data sources.
A fascinating sequence of events started unfolding, things happened naturally, people and processes started pulling and pushing to achieve efficiencies and optimizations.
1. Frequently constantly ask creative questions
As product experts, we started just ‘ad-hoc-ing’ immediate, straight forward and expected questions, dashboards and KPIs. It was an immediate look into our own performance, which kind of made sense at first but wasn’t really shedding any new light. We were asking the obvious questions. Product were looking at how many tasks were completed via R&D, Marketing were looking at standard lead generation sources, PM’s were looking at how many new vs completed projects were done, basically, just a view into the current state of operations.
We started spending more time on our own analysis. Initial reports and dashboards were becoming more robust and complete, new questions and curiosities started arising. Interesting ‘what-if’ scenarios and potential decision trees were being asked in the hallways, people started ‘data-day-dreaming’ (looking up into the air and wondering about their data) and reaching ‘AHA’ moments.
That's when the magic started happening
As the start up grew, from 20 employees, to 50, 100, 500, and the number of new clients arose to the thousands, R&D productivity sky-rocketed, and thousands of new leads every week kept marketing very busy, we started asking questions about data which wasn’t even there!
That’s when we started entering the organizational BI state of mind.
2. Involve Everyone
We realized that in order to truly benefit from our data, and in order to absolutely improve our processes, we need to start acclimating the data to serve us, and not the other way around. We realized that it’s not enough to simply rely on existing data, and make do with what we have, rather mold the future, and start with asking yourself, what would you like to know about yourself and your process, in a perfect world where all the data is at your disposal?
We started re-modifying the way we collect data about our processes and were able to generate the insights we were missing all along.
And then the fascinating stuff happened
By learning about ourselves from perspectives which were unavailable to us, both data wise and perception wise, we started realizing that our processes needed modifications and improvements.
Finally! The data was serving us and our processes instead of the other way around!
We were improving, not on a yearly, quarterly or monthly interval, but every week! We were getting insights that we hadn’t realized we even needed, that gave us a window into our performance, and we were able to modify ourselves, even if only slightly, to see if an improvement had been made. We were molding the future of the company, the goals, processes and data and modifying them to each other, we were in the BI state of mind.
3. Collaborate and cooperate!
After a few iterations and improvements, company wide, we started understanding that in order to have the company truly benefit and grow from our first cycles, we need to grasp the company as one entity. We’ll have to take the entire sequence of events and processes moving from one department to another, such as a lead coming in from marketing, becoming a promising prospect undergoing a POC with sales, eventually becoming a paying client, in order provide the best services and win those client over and over again, we’re going to have to start working together, with each other’s data, as well as our own. Each department had inputs and outputs, cross department teams started springing up and the process as a whole started formulating.
After a few quick months of hard work in thoroughly understanding the high level processes in other, adjacent departments, several efficient iterations of development and feedback, we had an end to end data generation process, which was maintained by everyone, monitored by everyone, and even transparent to everyone! Productivity boosted, NPS scores sky rocketed, and we were working efficiently.
4. Ever strive to improve and always look into the future
We made amazing progress since eyeballing the ancient spreadsheets which were more confusing than beneficial, let alone, tiring and cumbersome to create and maintain.
Efficiency and optimization were the name of the game.
And yet, we were still growing, many more new leads and new clients every month, new projects, new requirements and new employees to join the team. We had to continue in our race against ourselves and our data generation rate.
We started looking at our new yearly and bi yearly plans ahead. Short, medium and long term goals and plans were put on the table.
What will we need in 12 months time, in order to achieve our 18-24 month goals, and what will we need in 6 months time to achieve our 12 month goals?
5. Acclimate yourself and your data
This brought us into understanding that we need not only departmental and team BI resources, but that these selected teams of analysts, data owners and business owners (many times the same people served more than just one function) must work together, constantly. The periodic goals, targets and plans were brought to the table and cross-departmental discussions and task forces were meeting on a weekly basis. We were working together and the great thing was that everything was transparent, everybody had insights to this data-process-person machine, as a whole entity.
This company now has the highest CS and NPS score ratings in the BI market, award winning R&D, a mean lead generation machine, sky-high employee satisfaction rates and an overall space rocket.
The way I see it, we wouldn't have reached these amazing heights, at a phenomenal rate, let alone become the spectacular company they are today without adopting from, head to toe, this organizational culture, of a BI state of mind.