And the Award for “Best Picture” Goes to …

Oops! During the grand finale of the 2017 Oscars broadcast, in front of a television audience of millions, the wrong Best Picture winner was announced. Only after a couple minutes into acceptance speeches was the error corrected, and the actual winning film and those who made it given their due recognition.

To be sure it was embarrassing for the presenters, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and PwC (the accountants who tabulate the vote and during the show hand to presenters envelopes containing the names of the winners). But this mistake provides a warning to anyone responsible for delivering accurate and timely information to decision-makers: Any weak link in the entire chain can result in missed opportunities, decreased business value, the wrong decision, even a damaged reputation (personal or corporate).

After watching the cringe-worthy event a couple times on YouTube (I didn’t see it live), I came up with a few parallels and key lessons for Business Intelligence:

  • Understand what’s important to get the job done, and focus on it. In the meantime avoid distractions and lower value-add activities, like taking photos and tweeting.
  • Match the information to the need. Present the right information to the right people at the right time. When the “Best Picture” information is needed, “Actress in a Leading Role” information isn’t useful.
  • Reduce or eliminate reliance on manual processes and look for ways to automate. The PwC accountants have a process that includes redundancy (there are two sets of envelopes and cards for each award) but the system depends on people and paper, both of which come with higher risks of mistakes and failure.
  • Whether it’s a paper report or a dashboard, be sure important information is very clear. On the cards read by the presenters, the category name (e.g. “Best Picture”) is in very small print at the bottom of the card. It might be helpful (especially for aging stars whose eyesight is no longer sharp) to move the category to the top of the card and increase the font size. Could the printing of the category name on the outside of the envelope somehow be clearer as well, to reduce the risk of the accountant handing the wrong one to the presenter?
  • Be nimble and respond quickly to communicate updates and stay on course. It took several minutes to discover and correct the problem. As reported by news outlets, PwC admitted “protocols for correcting [the error] were not followed through quickly enough.”
  • For information to be understood and properly used, training and competence are important. Users need to read and understand the information they get, before they act. But my heart goes out to Warren and Faye – I’m sure they never expected to be part of this kind of mix-up.

Do your Business Intelligence solutions deliver the “best pictures” of your business to your user audience? Are your BI consumers seeing the right information, the right level of detail, in formats that make sense to them, at the right time? Do they get the information they personally need to make the best decisions?

Let us know if you’d like to brainstorm. As they say in Hollywood, “Have your people call my people, and we’ll do lunch!”

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