June 3, 2012
I frequently see IT professionals struggle when trying to quantify intangibles. We deal with accurate, precise data on a daily basis so it goes against our nature to provide less precise information to our stakeholders. We tend lose sight of the fact that we live in a fast-moving, imprecise business world (I know I am guilty at times). When you really think about it, we often complain that our business leaders cannot precisely quantify their goals. We forget that one cannot accurately predict what consumers will do next month much less next year. Since it usually takes IT staff some time to gather data from real-time sources, business situations can substantially change during the time IT performs the analyses. In many cases that means that the project has to be in place and operating in order to gather accurate data. In order to accommodate the shorter business turnaround times, IT professionals may need to find quicker and better ways to quantify intangibles.
The American television game show "Wheel of Fortune" provides a good example of a how one can deal with intangibles. The show is based around a series of word games. The contestants start with a blank set of tiles representing the letters in words; similar to the age-old game of "Hangman". The contestants each spin a wheel to get the opportunity to ask if a certain letter exists in the word or set of words. If it does, the contestant can try to solve the puzzle. Sometimes a contestant can solve the puzzle with just one or two letters exposed; other times all letters must be revealed.
The game is not unlike the position business leaders often find themselves when trying to make a decision. They have a lot of unknowns but each element of information they acquire gets them closer to an informed decision. Today's competitiveness means they may need to make those decision more quickly; before all information is available.
The game concept can be a good example of how IT can deal with intangibles. Rather than being unwilling to provide imprecise information, sometimes providing management with just a portion of the total is sufficient for them to make an informed decision. The leaders have more information than when they started, thus can better understand the risks involved in proceeding with the new venture. They will take your information and combine it with that of other departments, giving them a clearer picture of what they are facing, facilitating the decision-making process. So the next time one of your executives asks for information that is not readily available, don't say "no." Consider ways to more quickly provide portions of data, perhaps at lesser precision than normal, and ask if that lesser level of precision satisfies their needs. Think "Wheel of Fortune."
Until the next time,