I was killing a little time drifting around my Twitter stream over the past few days. As always with Twitter, I never know when I will find something that catches my eye. Here, what caught my eye were variations on the phrase “building a world-class XXX”. Where XXX might be a sales team, business intelligence solution, mobile application, … basically anything.
That’s a noble goal, to build a world-class something.
But sometimes, it’s the wrong thing to do. The article from Twitter that caught my eye was about building a world-class data warehouse. Now maybe, just maybe, if I were in charge of customer analytics at the Bellagio then building a world-class data warehouse is the right thing to do. I deal with the technology decisions and strategy for our portfolio of companies in my role as a partner at ParkerGale Capital. We buy companies from founders. Our founders have built great products and they have happy customers. Often, however, lots of the surrounding infrastructure such as sales, marketing and analytics leave a lot to be desired. Implementing ANY business intelligence solution yields immediate benefits in our companies. But we are not building world-class analytics. We don’t need world class. We need basic analytics about customer profitability, sales trends, product profitability and basic demand forecasting. Our goal is speed with “approximate” accuracy. I’d rather do simple statistics quickly and build off of that base, then try to build anything “world class”.
Keeping with this example, we rarely invest in complex extract-transform-load tools when we start out. We do simple CSV exports from our operational systems and load them into SQL Server via BCP or RazorSQL. We use stored procedure scripts to standardize the data and we spit everything out in Excel or Tableau. This isn’t world class, but it’s very effective. I’m picking one example here, business intelligence, because I see it all the time. But this happens across the board, with almost every software category and within departments in every company. Can’t tell you how many times I have seen variations on the theme “you need to build a world-class customer service practice just like Zappos.com”. No, you don’t. Good customer service is often good enough — pun intended.
Software vendors and consultants love to guilt you into spending more time and money than you need to spend. You don’t always need world-class. Don’t be talked into an enterprise platform when you don’t need one. Start small, see if it works and THEN decide whether you need world-class or not. I’m betting you don’t.