Sound Bites

What About The Data?

with Deidre Paknad, WorkBoard CEO

One of the big impetuses for starting WorkBoard was my experience as an executive at IBM where we, like probably many of you, used meetings and slide decks — very long slide decks — to manage the business. We used those decks to say, "Where are we going? Where are we now? What are the issues, and what are the opportunities?" And we had a high cadence, with many cadence meetings in a given week — many monthly ops reviews, many quarterly business reviews — because it was a complex and matrixed business. And all of those meetings were fueled by, supported by, driven by slides, and the extraordinary effort that went into preparing all of those materials in each of those meetings.

And I started to think, at some point people's jobs had, in many ways, become preparing for and attending meetings. And those aren't really jobs. Preparing the package and sitting through the meeting — that's not really value creating. That's administering the business, but it's not actually driving value in the business.

And the second thing I came to realize (and frankly get quite frustrated about) was the inability to rely on the slide deck to get to the real truth. And there were a couple issues, the first of which is you could just change the slide formatting between meeting one and meeting two and camouflage the fact that you've lowered the target and you're not gonna make it anyway. It was too easy to massage and package the message in a way that obscured the essence of the strategy and our execution against it, intentionally or unintentionally. People like to represent themselves in the best light, in the best way, and that representing in the best light made it hard to just see the true light of day and the clear facts.

The second is, it is nearly impossible to compare this packet to the last packet. And if you could find the last packet, lucky you, but you don't have time right now to sift through the 62 pages to find the one point where that from last time, connected to this, from this time. It's just too hard. It's too difficult.

And then, because all of the content in the slide decks is actually gathered at a different point in time from a different place, from a different source about a different thing, I actually couldn't compare the data on page four with the data on page 23 to get a snapshot of this moment, because they both weren't from this moment. One was from three weeks ago, and the other was from this morning.

And then of course, if you're the person preparing the deck, there's just the amount of effort to do the archeology, to pull it all together to send it out. And then as soon as you send it out, you find the error and you've gotta send it out again because it's not live data.

And that whole rigmarole of extraordinary effort to pull all the data together in order to have a discussion, and the effort to try to read and digest that data before the meeting, and then listen to it get read to you in the meeting, and then realize we ran outta time before we got to the issues on page 41... that whole effort and process is extraordinarily expensive and inefficient and ineffective.

And that was one of the biggest reasons we launched WorkBoard, and why we've had what we call Running Business Reviews in the platform since 2016: so that you could get a real picture of your business now instead of slow, stale, massaged, debatable, disconnected, and expensive information delivered to you once a month. It's just not the best way to respond to a super dynamic market where learning opportunities come every day, where optimization opportunities come every week and where there's just too many facts and too many intersections to expect a flat file like a PowerPoint deck to give you meaningful, actionable insight.

Some of the leaders I've talked to, and particularly a business unit president I talked to from a large business — global, very mature, very, very much like IBM, where I was an executive as well — he hesitated, and he viewed not having perfect data as a barrier to using WorkBoard to the full extent that he wanted to. He said, "but our data's not very good, our data's not very clean." And he saw that as a barrier to moving to WorkBoard where he could get the data in real time, and he could get it on Saturday night if he wanted it.

And I asked him, how does he get data and information now? And he described the 50 governance meetings and operations meetings he has in a given quarter, each of which has its own deck, the staff meetings and the upline meetings, and the cross-functional meetings and the initiative meetings and so on. And all of those were deck fueled, just as I described. And all of them had that bad data in it. And so he was getting poor quality data, but spending an extraordinary amount of time and resources to get that weak data slowly.

His opportunity , and the path to good data and good insight, is to reduce the cost of getting it. So make it real time, get a running business view. Make it accessible anytime you need it to answer questions and to make decisions and choices. Make sure it's readily used by everyone, not just the lucky people with the deck or the slides.

And the most important thing: when you have lower cost, fully accessible data that's readily used, it can be frequently discussed.

It turns out that the secret to good data is frequent discussion. The more frequently you look at the data, the more often you're having a conversation about whether that's really the plan, and that's really the actual, the clearer it becomes: what needs to change, who needs to change, and how we need to change.

Good data is inexpensive, accessible, easily used and frequently discussed. That's what a platform like WorkBoard promises and delivers. But it's not what you're gonna get from the PowerPoint based, slide based management model and meetings that are how you share and distribute data today.

Food for thought.