The Enterprise Escape Room
This article was originally published as part of the Forbes Business Council.
I recently found my way out of an escape room for the first time and underestimated how powerful an experience it would be. If you’re not familiar, an escape room is an interactive event where you pay to be locked in a room. To escape, you must solve a series of puzzles and challenges within an allotted time. These rooms have gained popularity in recent years, with over 2,000 in the U.S. alone, and it’s easy to see why. The experience forces you to think in new ways, be creative and work as a team to quickly get a result: a key to unlock the room.
As my team solved the final clue, it dawned on me that many companies spend their entire day in an “enterprise escape room,” searching for information (making sense of reports), wasting precious time going down the wrong path (accessing inaccurate, incomplete or outdated data), and suffering from a lack of coordination. Not only is this frustrating, but also it’s morale-busting for teams across the enterprise. Instead of using the power of analytics to boost business impact, employees often stop using business intelligence platforms and analytics tools altogether. In fact, 97% of data leaders report that ignoring data has had significant consequences for their business—from missed revenue opportunities and bad investments to subpar performance forecasting.
However, spending on data and analytics solutions is expected to reach $274 billion this year as enterprises seek ways to make better, faster decisions. This investment, coupled with a chaotic reporting environment, is like being trapped without an escape in sight—you have the best minds in the room and all the tools at your disposal, but your teams just can’t break through the complexity to drive results.
The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way. By applying the same strategies used in an escape room to the consumption of analytics, enterprises can find a logical way to reduce report clutter and turn complexity into collaboration.
Lessons Learned From A Great Escape
If you can’t find a simple answer in an escape room, it’s likely because all of the information you need hasn’t been revealed. With the average employee spending 3.6 hours per day searching for information, employees can struggle to find what they need to move forward. You can help your employees quickly discover various reports, dashboards, spreadsheets and PDFs to expedite productivity by consolidating information and simplifying access to insights.
One way to do this is with an analytics catalog. (Full disclosure: My company has created an analytics catalog, but there are a number of other options on the market.) An analytics catalog helps enterprises simplify how tools and assets are accessed and used. This approach simplifies the user interface, giving more employees the analytics access they need.
When implementing an analytics catalog, I recommend starting small by focusing on a specific team or function. Understand the tools and reports they use most frequently and optimize that experience. Just by going through this exercise, you’ll learn who needs access and how they use the tools and assets.
An alternative to having an analytics catalog is taking a systematic, centralized approach to how all analytics assets are stored, tagged with relevant metadata, shared and accessed. This is often referred to as a data inventory or data map. Taking this approach allows a company to establish oversight authority, define the categorization, catalog the assets, run quality checks and manage access. One of the main objectives is removing duplicate or outdated assets and making it quick and simple for employees to find what they’re looking for. This requires clear ownership of the various assets, governance and a consistent approach to how assets are organized. To fully use the BI tools, you need tight integration and a seamless user experience. While this manual approach takes the right resources and focus, it can be done.
Divide And Conquer
When you enter an escape room, it seems like everything is a clue. The trick is to divide and conquer by assigning each team member a section so they can analyze what’s in front of them and share details as they arise. This approach applies to enterprises as well, and when you streamline your analytics consumption, you can empower employees to share assets across teams easily. By zeroing in on a valuable source of truth, users from marketing and sales to product development and beyond can easily find relevant reports to simplify analytics work and decision making.
Organize Your Assets To Make Quick Decisions
To escape, you need to think ahead to plan your next move wisely. The same is true at the enterprise level, so make sure you arm your employees with the right insights to empower them to quickly and confidently make decisions that can significantly impact operations. When you house all of your BI and analytics assets in one place, employees gain visibility across the entire ecosystem. The result? The ability to personalize an experience that is not constrained by the tool generating reports but rather in the context of work that needs to be done.
Communicate And Collaborate
Communication is crucial for moving forward, and collaboration between players makes an escape obtainable. Encourage your team members to share information, focus on what’s preventing you from moving forward, and call out flags or newly discovered insights. This is invaluable for both succeeding in escape rooms and propelling business outcomes.
At the end of the day, agile businesses enable their employees to focus on problem solving, using their skillsets and accomplishing tasks. To gain a competitive advantage and foster a positive employee experience, it’s time for businesses to break free from cumbersome reporting processes in favor of efficiency, consistency and transparency. And while the odds of solving an escape room are only around 41%, overcoming analytics complexity is a sure-fire solution.
Read the article on Forbes.com