How to fight “Business Urban Legends” – Integrate Investment Portfolio to BI

Posted on July 6, 2009


Urban LegendBusiness Urban Legends are everywhere and sit at the heart of each investment decision. Interestingly enough, companies claim their unique needs, culture and business models which make them different from the competition; yet they are prone to follow generic public statements (investment in central ERP has no ROI for instance) in the very heart of their strategy.

This could lead us to think that overall investments for a business are not managed properly, and companies prefer to apply others (the ones that are different from them) principles & lessons learned to overhaul their strategic assets.

If understanding what the competition is doing and what has been the result is always useful, it is different to a apply systematic process when it comes to understand the return on our own investments which goes beyond the usage of discounted cash flow methods.

It is not unusual to see businesses spending an incredible amount of time and energy to justify an investment; yet when it comes to control its final performance, no consistent effort is existing. There is here, at my opinion, two major flaws in the process: 1 – The lack of continuity in the investment discipline thru the entire life-cycle, and 2 – The focus on return project by project. (see “Integrate IT in the Company’s Portfolio

This approach leads companies to rely on “Business Urban Legends” which could be existing within the company itself.

In this post, I suggest to use a disciplined approach which could allow company to optimize their investments based upon the capability of their strategic resources not on beliefs . The decision of “where to invest” should be dedicated by the strategy and is not part of this exercise.

If we are looking at the overall structure of business investments, we could consider investing in:

1- Improving Performance & Growth

2- Sustaining the current Performance & Protecting market share

3 – Survival & Adaptation to context

We can observe that these proposed categories are highly integrated. For instance “Improving Performance” will required to absorbe this new value in the “Sustaining”. Conversely not investing in “Sustaining” will at a point of time required to invest in “survival”.

The interest of this classification is that it pushes organizations to approach investment with a minimum discipline and develop awareness regarding their potential impact (Risk & Opportunity).

Optimizing an investment portfolio will become a matter of managing the risk & opportunity generated by investments and  external context (Market, Economics, Social), based on strategic priorities.  If it sounds simple, the execution of this principle is becoming extremely complex without having in place a living knowledge repository for investment. If the basic attributes could be tracked on a simple excel spreadsheet like: investment amount, expected return, break even; the understanding of risk & opportunity required a much broader set of attributes to answer questions such as:

– “What could be the premium cost to leverage an investment, and what is the cost of exercising this option?”

– “What is the overall profile of a past investment and what remaining potential value I can get from it, and at what price?” (See “CIOs, Manage your S-Curve“)

-“What is my exposition to risk?(See “The Dark Art of IT Investment“)

This is where BI solutions could help structure and extract relevant metrics to guide an organization toward the optimization of its investment portfolio. Today most of the companies are relying on market generic statements or beliefs for investments, but implementing a strong discipline and leveraging BI technologies, will enable them to lead their own destiny.

I will develop this model in future posts and elaborate a complete example on how it can be applied in a real case.Bookmark and Share