Why Is Good Business Information So Scarce?

I recently came across this O’Reilly post about CrunchBase, the open database of information on startup companies, asking whether CrunchBase will remain free in the long term.  While the post itself is interesting, the part that puzzles me is why there is so little business-oriented information freely available out there.  Data as a service has been generating a lot of excitement recently, and I think it’s well warranted.  However, the only prominent sources of open business information are the SEC’s Edgar database, LinkedIn, and CrunchBase.  After that, the field gets very thin.  Considering how much effort companies put into business intelligence and competitive intelligence, it seems like there should be a great profit motive for someone to provide a deeper business information layer.  So I don’t really understand why we’re in this situation, but it does seem like a big opportunity. Continue reading Why Is Good Business Information So Scarce?

Look at Business Drivers, Not Just Results

For some reason, many of the CEOs at my previous consulting clients like to review their companies’ results on a daily basis using top-line metrics.  How many widgets were sold, how many hospital beds are full, etc.?  If yesterday’s numbers for a  particular product or location are down, they often go into fire-fighting mode and spend time trying to figure out what happened, talking to the relevant manager, and planning a response.

This kind of monitoring can be useful to flag sudden problems, but it’s mostly a big time sink.  More importantly, it doesn’t provide any substantive insight.  You feel like you’re keeping track of the state of the business, but mainly you’re just going through the motions.  Looking at high-level numbers provides no deeper understanding into why the business is performing a certain way and can even be misleading.  Not that I don’t do the same thing.  I get far too fixated on the visitors and page views for this blog at times.

So what should you do instead?  Well, business intelligence, as it’s called these days, has matured into its own vast (and expensive) field, but here are a few thoughts to start with. Continue reading Look at Business Drivers, Not Just Results