Ten Business Upgrades Within Your Reach in 2024

Rob Collie

Founder and CEO Connect with Rob on LinkedIn

Justin Mannhardt

Chief Customer Officer Connect with Justin on LinkedIn

Ten Business Upgrades Within Your Reach in 2024

Feeling behind the curve when it comes to leveraging data and technology in your business? Stuck relying on manual processes and gut instinct instead of actionable insights? You’re not alone.

Tune into this special episode as hosts Rob and Justin reveal 10 achievable ways you can use data to transform your business in 2024. No fancy tech skills or big budgets required.

Learn how you can break free of Excel reporting, gain visibility across departments, and take the guesswork out of important decisions. Hear practical tips for unleashing marketing analytics, optimizing cloud investments, and even dipping your toe into AI.

We’ll also tackle ways to modernize budgeting and transform manual, offline processes to boost efficiency.

If you want to compete above your weight class in the year ahead, this episode is a must-listen. You’ll discover quick wins to drive profitability, service, and growth while creating capacity for the human strengths machines can’t match.

The tools to punch above your weight in 2024 are more accessible than ever. Tune in now to start planning your next plays.

Episode Transcript

Rob Collie (00:00): Hello, friends and welcome to the beginning of the end of 2023. Yup. Here in the US, we just got out of the Thanksgiving holiday and that kind of marks the beginning of the end. We got maybe one, two more weeks of high intensity work and then people start taking their eye off the ball. And I remember many, many years ago when I first joined Twitter, I saw someone tweet something to the effect of, "Either start hustling like I do at this time of year or keep wondering why I get so lucky."

(00:29): And ever since then I've been very, very keen on the idea that even though not as much might get done, once things start to wind down, if you take that as an opportunity to clear your head, the first several months, maybe even the entirety of the following year, might go a very different way.

(00:45): We get so little time to be proactive in lives and careers that are overwhelmingly reactive. And so in this episode, Justin and I talk about examples of very impactful things you can do for your business that are very much within range, achievable, almost regardless of how large your team is, how deep your resources go. We try to keep the examples as broadly applicable across industries and situations but I'll explain all of the criteria that we use for selecting the 10 once we get into it with Justin.

(01:15): Sort of as a last note here, I know there are two different kinds of listeners to this show. First of all, there are the practitioners, the people who wield things like Power BI in their daily work, and then there's also business leaders who tune in to help gain ideas and perspectives on how their teams, their organizations, might benefit from these technologies.

(01:33): Now, of course, there's also some overlap between those two audiences. But you might think of this one as aimed more specifically at that second crowd because we keep it very non-technical. Now, don't get discouraged if you're in that first crowd because if you're in that first crowd, learning to increasingly speak about business impact and speak in that language is the key to buy-in. So much like that scene in Saving Private Ryan, when Tom Hanks was saying, "Hey, listen up, folks, this is how you gripe," you've got to learn how to speak to those business leader types now, don't you? All right. Without further ado, let's get into it.

Announcer (02:05): Ladies and gentlemen, may I have your attention, please.

Announcer (02:10): This is the Raw Data by P3 Adaptive Podcast with your host Rob Collie and your co-host, Justin Mannhardt. Find out what the experts at P3 Adaptive can do for your business. Just go to p3adaptive.com. Raw Data by P3 Adaptive is data with the human element.

Rob Collie (02:36): All right, a little something different today. We're in that slow time of the year. Once we get past Thanksgiving, things slow down a little bit. And rather than waste that time, I think that's a really, really valuable time of the year to think and kind of get a form of clarity that we usually don't have time for.

Justin Mannhardt (02:53): Right.

Rob Collie (02:55): The idea for today is we're going to discuss 10 things that are achievable with data, business impact focused, so not technical, there's technical solutions to them. And let's try to aim for things that are the most broadly applicable. This makes it a little challenging and we come up with 10, we come up with all kinds of specific ideas, couldn't we?

Justin Mannhardt (03:16): Yes, we could.

Rob Collie (03:17): Very, very, very-

Justin Mannhardt (03:18): That's a long list.

Rob Collie (03:19): -finely attuned. However, to come up with a broadly applicable list is a little bit more challenging, but I think it's worth it.

Justin Mannhardt (03:24): Oh yeah.

Rob Collie (03:25): And the other important criteria or criterion or an item in this list is that it has to actually be achievable. Not quite low hanging fruit, but within range.

Justin Mannhardt (03:35): Something you could achieve, let's say, next year.

Rob Collie (03:38): Some things could be done in a month.

Justin Mannhardt (03:40): Yeah, like you could get started and get after it.

Rob Collie (03:43): Yeah. And other things six months, but if we literally expected it to take the entire year, that'd be pushing it. But also, without a big team, if it's going to be some massive project like implementing SAP or something like that, it's not going to make the list. This is something that a mid-size business, even a small business, or a department within a larger enterprise could conceivably execute with their resources, their budget.

(04:10): Let's start with an easy one. Let's just prime the pump. I know there are still Excel-driven manual reports out there.

Justin Mannhardt (04:15): No.

Rob Collie (04:15): They're everywhere. You could take some of those that take forever to be produced and you could turn them into something more automated.

Justin Mannhardt (04:23): You could.

Rob Collie (04:24): Like a nice Power BI report for instance. We're not just talking to people who make these things. We're talking to the people who consume them.

Justin Mannhardt (04:29): Yeah.

Rob Collie (04:30): If you are currently consuming Excel spreadsheets on a regular basis, you should be thinking about how we get that automated into something like Power BI?

Justin Mannhardt (04:40): One hundred.

Rob Collie (04:41): You wouldn't just be saving the time, this is the age-old story, but you wouldn't just be saving the time that it takes to create the spreadsheet by creating something automated, right? You're going to get something of higher quality.

Justin Mannhardt (04:50): This one's so timeless. The default thought is, "Oh, we could save time." But really what we're doing is creating time. I remember having a conversation with a CEO. We spent so much time on all these Excel reports. This is several years ago. We could save so much time. Perspective of the executive is like, that doesn't really matter to me because I still get the same information. The point for me is we're creating time for those really smart people that do that stuff as much as we are saving their time.

Rob Collie (05:19): I love little mental adjustments like this. You think that mathematically speaking, if you're playing soccer, shooting around the goalie and shooting for the open net are the same thing, but not really.

Justin Mannhardt (05:32): Nope.

Rob Collie (05:33): In practice, they're different. Saving time and creating time. I'm going to try to, from now on, only talk about creating time.

Justin Mannhardt (05:41): It's the thing.

Rob Collie (05:41): And by the way, not only are you creating time, you simply cannot end up with the same quality of information. You replace a manual Excel process it's going to be better in unimaginable ways. It's going to answer things that you realize that you should have been answering all along. It's going to be more frequently available.

Justin Mannhardt (06:00): If someone is spending time manually wrangling data around in Excel, it should be something that's new, right? They should be figuring out a new problem. They shouldn't be doing something that's just routinely served to the company.

Rob Collie (06:15): All right, I took an easy one. Your turn, Justin.

Justin Mannhardt (06:18): You can totally stop looking at your business one silo at a time and start looking at the whole thing altogether, looking across your business. So instead of looking at your sales report and your operations, your finance, whatever your business is, if you're looking at six different things to try and understand what's going on, you could look at one thing and it could be better.

Rob Collie (06:44): But it's so easy. You don't necessarily even realize when you're doing it, "Oh, I have this system and it produces reports, and I go and look at those." "On the one hand, I'm looking at sales or revenues going up, but then on another report, oh, costs are going up."

Justin Mannhardt (07:04): Right. Bad.

Rob Collie (07:06): So now, I'm fighting this war in my head. I've got two separate trains of thought. But it doesn't help me prioritize at all where to focus my attention. Between the two, for example, if I was looking at margin instead, which is inherently a spliced cross silo view, and then also prioritizing that by volume, where are the places where I could make the greatest improvement? Anyone? We're just talked about creating time, right?

Justin Mannhardt (07:34): Right.

Rob Collie (07:34): You create time so that you can go and make improvements.

Justin Mannhardt (07:38): Yeah.

Rob Collie (07:38): You can go and fix problems. And you can't fix them all. You get a limited set of problems to address the ability to identify the places where margin is most greatly impacted. It's a really good way to focus your attention.

Justin Mannhardt (07:55): Margin sometimes can be misunderstood in this example because someone say, "Oh, we have our financial report and it tells us what our margins are." But it's the granular understanding of that. I can't tell you how many companies I've worked with, they're like, "Oh, we just would really love to solve the customer profitability puzzle or the product profitability puzzle," or whatever that company does.

(08:16): And that's the integration of not just your financial GL activity, but all the other things happening in your pipeline and understanding the backlog of orders, all these different things. So we have a really well-rounded solid context for these important decisions you want to make. And even the nuance, you got different lexicons and hierarchies and categories between all these systems and you're just like, how do you make sense out of it?

Rob Collie (08:41): Got to rationalize those in order to see across those silos. And I deliberately chose the simplest example. In what world is revenue completely housed in one silo and what world is expense completely housed in the second one? Very few. Even that is sort of like a frictionless world example because usually there's revenue coming from multiple places and there's cross coming from multiple places.

Justin Mannhardt (09:02): Right.

Rob Collie (09:03): The point I want to make sure is that nothing magical about the number two. One of my favorite examples was a set of scorecards that we helped some people build that went across nine different silos. And tracked the entire customer journey from first touch like the lead before they even were a customer all the way through the entire customer journey, the quality of customer service they received, all the way up through third party quality surveys conducted by JD Power.

(09:31): Sometimes, this would measure a journey in years. The whole nine silo, seven to nine silo thing, that's the other end of the spectrum. It's multi not two.

Justin Mannhardt (09:42): That's the thing. You deserve to see it all in the right context and altogether because that's what your business is. It's the collection of many things working well together.

Rob Collie (09:52): Your business doesn't live in any one silo. It lives across them, in between them. And also in the human semantic space that no single system has anything resembling like a final opinion on.

Justin Mannhardt (10:04): Right.

Rob Collie (10:05): All right, that's a good one. So here's one that's near and dear to my heart. Yeah. Every now and then, we run into one of these third party cloud services. You know this cloud service?

Justin Mannhardt (10:14): Can you explain the cloud, please?

Rob Collie (10:16): Yeah, and these line of business applications that run in the cloud that aren't ours, they end up being from an analytics standpoint, oftentimes like a dead end. We've already talked about the Excel reports and the single silo thing. If all I get is an export button from the cloud service or just as much fun, an API that is basically like an export button that I can call programmatically. It has a lot of the same problems. No one's exposing you like an actual database type connection.

Justin Mannhardt (10:52): We're into what I call the curly braces territory. Curly braces means somebody's writing something that looks like code.

Rob Collie (11:00): Okay. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, we can do it.

Justin Mannhardt (11:04): Totally.

Rob Collie (11:05): I'm told that we can do it.

Justin Mannhardt (11:06): I like doing it, honestly.

Rob Collie (11:08): I don't do it. So even something as simple as LinkedIn, so this is kind of a two for one. If the source you're using, if this cloud application that you're using, again, it's part of the customer journey, whatever, or it's part of your business, it's one of those silos. It's currently locked up behind that cloud app. And so, it can't be turned into an automated report. It can't be spliced together with everything else. It feels like it's behind the wall, so if it doesn't even have an API, we have robotic process automation.

Justin Mannhardt (11:43): It's true.

Rob Collie (11:44): We can automate the clicking of all of those exports. We can basically tunnel around that obstacle.

Justin Mannhardt (11:50): This is the behavioral pattern just to put it on blast for a second. If it's somebody's job in your company to log into something, push an export button, and then we're back to our first thing and then go do some crazy stuff in Excel, that's an opportunity you can solve.

Rob Collie (12:07): There's nothing holding us back anymore. If it also exposes an API, that doesn't just solve the problem. In recent episodes of this show, we have talked about how fabric actually is going to make this a lot easier.

Justin Mannhardt (12:21): There's no friction on this. There are certainly some technical details. But for a lot of the major applications that a lot of us are using, the connectors are there. That's not curly braces territory. So I think that pattern of, let's stop clicking that export button, again, unless you're ... I just think that makes sense. I'm onto something new. I'm exploring something. I'm trying to figure something out. But if you're just doing that ad nauseum, you should fix that.

Rob Collie (12:49): Yeah. Once it becomes a recurring activity. Yeah, 100%. That's a good one. I like that one. I'm going to hog the mic and transition us straight into another one.

Justin Mannhardt (12:59): I like it.

Rob Collie (12:59): So very, very, very often your company's marketing and social media data is going to be hidden by exactly those sorts of obstacles, so I'm going to make this a two for one and say...

Justin Mannhardt (13:13): I like it.

Rob Collie (13:15): ...because of the one we just talked about, you can get a handle on your marketing and social media, all those related activities. You can get an end-to-end view of what's going on there quite readily.

Justin Mannhardt (13:27): X, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Snapchat, TikTok, all of the above, right?

Rob Collie (13:33): Google.

Justin Mannhardt (13:34): Google.

Rob Collie (13:35): I heard Bing is still around and gaining ground. A little bit of a cheat code there, but I think it's worth calling out that so much of our data in that space. Marketing social media is one of the places where the export button is being worn out.

Justin Mannhardt (13:48): Yeah, it's starting to fade. You can't read the middle letters anymore.

Rob Collie (13:52): But you don't need to read it anymore because exactly where it is from muscle memory, you can punch that thing with your eyes closed. Yeah.

Justin Mannhardt (13:57): While we're on the topic of the cloud, people spend a lot of money on the cloud, whether that's the SaaS applications you're using, or maybe more specifically for me is the amount of money you're spending on services like Azure or Power BI or other things. If that budget is out of control for you, it's time to not outspend your budget but outsmart it with some analytics.

(14:23): This is a good time to think about what you really want to accomplish with your analytics and rationalize, do I need all of this stuff? Or do I need all of this stuff that I'm planning on going and doing? This is a good time to maybe assess where you are and where you're headed with your data stack.

Rob Collie (14:44): Here's how this feels in practice. The overall cloud bill, it does one thing, it goes up.

Justin Mannhardt (14:53): Always.

Rob Collie (14:54): It just goes up. Right? The sun also rises whatever, the cloud bill goes up. If it were all one thing, you'd think it'd be pretty straightforward to get your hands around, okay, where is this coming from? But because it's coming from lots of places, even within a single bill from a single vendor, there might be multiple streams of activity that are generating costs that are piling up expense. You know what the number is. You can pretty easily add these bills together and say, "Here's what we're paying per month now." That's not some huge challenge.

(15:26): But who's using it? And how important is it? And is there any component of this that we can turn off or turn down? And that's the thing you don't know. So, again, because we haven't created enough time in our lives, what you do is you just keep paying the bill.

Justin Mannhardt (15:43): This should be a regular rhythm for your company. At least once a year, just sit down, what's going on? And there's a lot of great tools out there that can make it easy to spot like,"Oh, we could save money by going from this thing to this thing. Pretty low impact," low friction to your operations. I've been personally caught by the, "Oh, I left that thing on for a month and I didn't need to." And so, there's things you could implement to prevent the runaway cloud spend, right?

Rob Collie (16:15): Yeah. Even catch it preemptively.

Justin Mannhardt (16:18): Right.

Rob Collie (16:18): Yeah. It's funny, right? Here's an old story where we're all accustomed to, especially at larger organizations, like all of the reports that got written over the years that were looked at once and then never looked at again, those zombie reports didn't really cost you anything.

Justin Mannhardt (16:36): No.

Rob Collie (16:36): They cost you a little bit of query time, seat, whatever. But those were typically being run on your machines that you already own, that you were paying for one way or the other, right? It's not like-

Justin Mannhardt (16:47): It's Capitalized.

Rob Collie (16:48): But today's metaphor for that is you got all this cloud spend that was set up one time and it was maybe useful once. That same orphaning activity is going on, but this time it costs you.

Justin Mannhardt (17:03): It's amazing. We're working with a bigger company and they're like, "We want to focus on our critical reports." "Oh, how many are those?" 1500. "Oh, okay," and you go through that exercise and you're like, "Wow, nobody's using these ones," or they're derivatives of each other, like iterations on the same idea. Did I get that under control?

Rob Collie (17:27): It's also kind of like all those streaming subscriptions you've got. We're still paying for Max. Are we watching anything on Max?

Justin Mannhardt (17:34): Last night I was like, "Who signed up for Peacock?" How did my 7-year-old figure out how to sign up for Peacock? That's not okay.

Rob Collie (17:48): Oh, goodness. Modern problems.

Justin Mannhardt (17:50): Yeah.

Rob Collie (17:50): All right. Here's one, forensics. There are places where you're sitting around going, I see a trend. I see a trend like something's going up or something's going down, something's getting better, something's getting worse. It's mysterious. There's a real reason or oftentimes multiple reasons under the hood that are driving this. But, again, in a shortage of time, oftentimes you just have to accept that these trends are what they are without an explanation, without a why. And without the why, it paralyzes any sort of action.

Justin Mannhardt (18:22): Yeah.

Rob Collie (18:22): If it's something negative going on, you don't know how to address it, you might guess. And if you're guessing and then you make decisions and you take action based on those guesses, if nothing changes, you're not sure if your guess was wrong or if the action you're taking isn't doing the thing that you want it to. And so, very oftentimes, these trends demand action. You feel this pressure to take action before you understand it, and now you're committed to the action months can go by, you still don't really know what's going on, and with a little bit of created time and not that much effort, you can usually, especially if you get a little help, just a little bit of help,

Justin Mannhardt (19:04): A little bit of help goes a long way.

Rob Collie (19:06): That's often what we're doing for our clients. Not only we bringing our expertise and everything, but we're bringing another brain or two that can sort of quarterback the problem. We understand the problem, we've mind melded with you, we understand the problem, and now we can go sleuth it for you and come back with the answer and set it up in a way that you can answer it yourself going forward. This is something that's super, super, super clear to me even in our own business is we're a small team. Our back office is a small team anyway. Having even one extra brain that can go chase a problem and you can trust that they're going to come back with the answers is a really big deal.

Justin Mannhardt (19:48): Something even so simple and broad as a decline in sales. A lot of people have been in this type of conversation. You're sitting around a table and, "The sales are down." "What? What's causing this?" And Rob thinks it's this and I think it's this, and we sort of go around speculating. We miss the detail of what's actually causing that decline. We also miss other things like your sales going up or down or any metric going up and down is this composition of a lot of things going up and down together, so like, oh, you could be freaking about your sales going down, but totally missing out the fact that this one segment of your portfolio is just crushing it. And so you focus on how to stop this bad thing for happening, but you could be leaning into this good thing that's happening. Right?

Rob Collie (20:36): Yeah. Yeah. Oftentimes is one of my favorites is that the truth is that an overall trend in a particular direction is merely the amalgamation of many trends that go in different directions. And they net out to this top level trend to harness the good sub-trends and to head off the negative sub trends, you have to be able to decompose it. And this is one of those things where if you switch from a spreadsheet version of it, for example, this is, again, just the layup and you replace it. With an "Automated power BI version of it," you also gain the ability to decompose it effortlessly and spot all the sub trends.

(21:21): I also want to highlight, we see this trend. We're sitting around in a meeting and Rob thinks it's this and Justin thinks it's that right there, look at that. That happens. In that moment, there's a psychological social pressure to diagnose it on the spot. And soon as you succumb to that pressure to diagnose it on the spot, it's over.

Justin Mannhardt (21:43): It's over.

Rob Collie (21:44): You've lost. The real answer is we need to go see. We need to go understand. But that is daunting. It doesn't have to be.

Justin Mannhardt (21:53): You think of all the broadly applied "solutions" to these top level trends and just how often they just miss because they're not clear or specific enough. Oh, sales are down and then you go try and rah, rah, the sales team.

Rob Collie (22:10): They might be doing the best they've ever done.

Justin Mannhardt (22:12): 80% of them are like, I'm crushing it or whatever. And then you don't get traction on that because it's not clearly aligned with the underlying segments, right?

Rob Collie (22:24): Indeed. All right. I've been kind of hogging it a bit here.

Justin Mannhardt (22:27): You've been hogging the mic. This is one of my favorites. I talk to prospective customers a lot and something that tends to come up is when we're like, "Yeah, we'd love to work together." Let's talk about when we'd like to work together. If you're just drowning in your own backlog, one thing after the next, you've got this huge list of reports or improvements or data things to crank out. If you feel that way, this is the time to get out of that shuffle, get up above it and say, "Why are we working on what we're working on? Are we just trying to get through this long list of things so we supposedly satisfy some people?"

(23:07): This is a great time to be thinking about the why behind your work. What are we trying to improve? What are we trying to make better? And then, does our backlog support that? If you're not coming up out that work stream and just stopping the fight periodically, you run the risk of just creating a lot of reports to nowhere or a lot of solutions to nowhere just because they're in the queue, and you're working on that. So if you're feeling like that, if you're feeling like, oh, we're just stuck in the race trying to get all this stuff done, get it done on time, this is an opportunity maybe for few folks to step out of that.

Rob Collie (23:43): It was a running joke for a long time, when I would teach classes, I would tell people, "Okay, you've been away from your job for three days, two or three days learning this with me. Okay, what you're going to do is you're going to go back to your job and your job's been piling up while you were gone.

Justin Mannhardt (23:58): Right.

Rob Collie (23:59): And you're going to go, "Okay, all right. I need to apply the new stuff that I just learned, but first I'm going to dig out. I got to catch up. So I'm going to dig out using the old ways. In this case, it would've been the Excel ways and then I'll start the next thing with the new stuff that I've learned." The real funny punchline was that that happened to a team that I trained privately. One time I went and visited their company and trained. And a year and a half later I went back and taught the same people the same thing all over again because they forgot-

Justin Mannhardt (24:31): They just got sucked back into it.

Rob Collie (24:35): Never got dug out. And so my advice to people was to always, as soon as you get back to your desk, start applying it somewhere. Don't wait to dig out. So it's kind this sort of a similar dynamic. But also, you said you were talking to customers or prospective customers and one of the questions is when makes sense for us to bring you on to help us? Part of their problem there is that they're swamped. They know they're swamped. And they're thinking that bringing us on to help them is going to be a massive drain on them.

(25:08): They're expecting to have to work almost as hard on this problem when they bring us in as they would if they tried to solve it themselves. And that's not what happens. We get that quick mind meld about what they're after, point us where the data is and that kind of stuff. We need a tour,

Justin Mannhardt (25:27): Show us your labyrinth.

Rob Collie (25:28): Show us around. And they just gained, as a company, they just gained an extra thinker in addition to the technical skills or whatever that they think the technical skills are primarily what they're looking for.

Justin Mannhardt (25:43): That's true.

Rob Collie (25:45): But they're gaining, in addition to that, they're gaining that extra thinker, the thinking capacity to go chase it.

Justin Mannhardt (25:52): Yeah. I'm going to make it easy as possible. And it's amazing, even just the logic, you talk to me, it's like I can't imagine taking two days out of my life just getting out of that swamped feeling, admitting that help is available, help is possible. Just committing to we need to change being in this swamped crisis level mode. Just little investments of skills acquisition or in the right projects go so far. If you can get over that hump-

Rob Collie (26:27): I'm constantly wanting to steal our consultants off of the billable front line.

Justin Mannhardt (26:34): Yeah, you are.

Rob Collie (26:34): And put them on things for me, like, when do I get the P3-

Justin Mannhardt (26:44): Don't worry, team. We're going to work on that and people want to help you too.

Rob Collie (26:48): I need some P3 consulting.

Justin Mannhardt (26:51): Yeah. Well, it's amazing even having this experience for myself many times now, how good it feels to just be in a position where someone is helping you, you get to react and provide feedback and help with direction, and it's a very different feeling than being in the suck to be able to say, "Rob, this is my problem. Let's make a ton of progress and just a couple of days together, and then you've got that ally," right? It's like, what do you think about this? Love it. Hate it. Oh, that's interesting. Let's pull on that thread. It's such a positive feeling to be able to do that.

Rob Collie (27:33): Yeah.

Justin Mannhardt (27:33): So this one's a bit, it sounds aspirational ambitious, but we've been trying to stress that it's not. So a lot of buzz about AI in the world right now. Tremendous amount of buzz. And if you're maybe at a mid-size company or maybe even a small company, you might be stuck in this assumption that AI is only for the big companies. That is categorically false today, you can absolutely get off the sideline with AI in a lot of different ways.

(28:07): There's all these tools that are out there like GPT and just huge list that you can be using copilot, coming to the Microsoft stack. But then also just building AI solutions that help you run your business. You can totally do that. That is in range now, so I think you should be thinking about where AI can be helping you, and I think you should be going after a few things for sure as soon as possible.

Rob Collie (28:33): Okay, so recent changes in the way this technology is made available to us have made it a lot more accessible. Hey, if you have a really good power BI model today, now in the Microsoft ecosystem, that's the first 90% of the way to having an AI solution if the type of AI that you need is one that's powered by that kind of data, whereas in the past you'd have to start all over again from scratch. And essentially build a parallel universe that sort of semantically contains the same data and the same logic, but in a completely different format. You don't have to do that anymore. Thank you, Fabric. Thank you, Microsoft.

(29:13): Okay, so there's that kind of accessibility, so the technology, and that's not the only example of the technology becoming more accessible, but it's just a really easy one. The hardest thing other than the technology which is getting easier is knowing what to do.

(29:31): It's kind of telling right now you and I aren't immediately putting all kinds of use cases around this readily like we are with other things in this list. Part of that is that it is very, very, very specific to each individual business, like reporting. Everyone understands seeing your numbers, seeing them accurately, seeing them effortlessly. That is universal, but AI in general is going to be, there are some general uses of it. But a lot of it's going to be very, very, your mileage will vary. It's for you. Okay, so one problem, general problem that someone can have in the business world with AI is that their boss is telling them, "Hey-"

Justin Mannhardt (30:14): What are we doing?

Rob Collie (30:15): What are we doing with AI. And that's kind of a silly problem, but it is a real problem nonetheless. And there's a close cousin of this, which is you are the boss and part of your brain is saying to another part of your brain, "Hey, what are we doing?"

Justin Mannhardt (30:33): Yeah. The internal monologue is tough, Rob.

Rob Collie (30:36): That one can be even more torturous than the other person doing it. So one thing that, for example, we could help with is it's really valuable to have someone to take a tour with you of the possibilities, but also not so much about the technology, more of a tour of the things in your business

Justin Mannhardt (30:59): Practical application.

Rob Collie (31:01): Yeah. If you've never seen it before, it's hard to extrapolate where you're going to use it. What's that first use? So, helping you spot the first couple of uses. And it might be very modest, like the New Explorer thing, I don't know if we want to mention it, but this Sophia thing.

Justin Mannhardt (31:19): Yeah.

Rob Collie (31:20): Just getting more value out of your existing power BI investment might be a great place to start.

Justin Mannhardt (31:26): Yeah. And it is very new and so this is how I'm thinking about it today. The way I'm structuring my own thinking and conversations I'm having is to think about AI application, sort of like these general categories. There's a tremendous number of what I would call small applications. A lot of times we say, "AI and we're looking for the big transformative, momentous game changing project."

(31:53): There's a lot of little things like these large language models can be so effective as a rubber duck, whether you're coming up with marketing content or working on a sales proposal or trying to think about just those little use cases where you can accelerate the human being. Just by turning some of these things on, you don't really need to have this big project necessarily. There's a lot of coaching that can go involved in that.

(32:18): Then there is the broad ambitious category. You mentioned just a moment ago, Rob, Project Sophia, which is something Microsoft announced a couple of weeks ago, which is really a glimpse into how AI could really change how we consume and interact with data and information. And so you can have maybe some of these more R&D type aspirations where you're just trying to figure out everything's changing, how might that translate to us?

(32:43): And then there's stuff in between that, but I would sort of go across that spectrum. Can I shortlist three to five ideas in these categories that makes sense for me and my business, and we can help think through that as well.

Rob Collie (32:55): How about that thing that most people do budgeting and planning-

Justin Mannhardt (33:00): It's that time of year.

Rob Collie (33:02): It's always that time of year, isn't it, when the process takes all year, right?

Justin Mannhardt (33:06): Yeah.

Rob Collie (33:07): It's like to joke that one of our dogs sheds four times a year, three months at a time. That's budgeting and that's the budgeting process, especially the spaghetti, mostly manual.

Justin Mannhardt (33:19): Send in your spreadsheets, everybody.

Rob Collie (33:22): Cat herding exercise, and then a miracle happens. You get a plan. It turns out that it really is time. It's time to replace that. It's time to get good at that.

Justin Mannhardt (33:33): Not only does the process suck and it's just ripe for efficiency with modern technology, that cycle of annual planning is so impractical to me. Like you were saying, we're doing it all the time. You need process and systems and tools that support you to be in always planning mode. We're always analyzing and reacting to what's happening. And this fact, there's sort of this big ceremonious event that typically coincides with the holidays is kind of silly to me.

Rob Collie (34:04): Yeah. And then as soon as you're done with that plan "done" something big changes in the business that kind of renders the whole thing moot.

Justin Mannhardt (34:13): It could be a really good thing too, right? It's not-

Rob Collie (34:16): It could be good. Yeah, it could be good. It doesn't have to be bad. We have clients that COVID was really good for, Yeah. There are really good power BI integrated and power BI adjacent technologies, so the same thing that Power BI has done for your reporting. We can now do that for that budgeting process. And by the way, which is in contrast to Power bi, the budgeting process is highly collaborative in the creation of it.

(34:46): It is a read, write, multitouch, multi-person, many, many humans type of problem, lots-

Justin Mannhardt (34:51): Lots of of iteration.

Rob Collie (34:52): Lots of iteration, and so it's different, but the same vibe of how Power BI brought a previously way out of reach technology solution. There have been massive software suites for planning and budgeting for a very long time. And they were out of reach of, basically everyone, even the handful of companies that were big enough to attempt this, found out that it was too big, too big of a fight for them.

Justin Mannhardt (35:26): I'm waiting to encounter the company that's like, "Oh, we use this big box planning software and we love it." I never hear that.

Rob Collie (35:35): No, it doesn't happen. We have the technology. And that's one of the ones that, especially because the social and cultural integration aspect within your company, it's one of the harder ones. It's one of the bigger ones, but even that one can be done in six months or less, and again, creates time, creates clarity. It's one of the biggest, most transformational things that we can do.

(35:59): While we're on that, I'm going to pick up the 10th. So, really, any process that is inherently manual or semi-manual involve lots of people, sometimes even involves paper. It doesn't have to be analysis. The tech platforms that we have available to us these days that really no one is priced out of, this is one of those buzz phrases, digital transformation, what does it mean?

Justin Mannhardt (36:31): Tell us.

Rob Collie (36:32): It basically means taking these manual partially offline processes and turning them into electronic processes. And so, really, the digital transformation story, we've been living digital transformation for decades.

Justin Mannhardt (36:53): Right.

Rob Collie (36:53): The PC was the beginning of digital transformation. I don't know why it needed a new phrase in the last few years.

Justin Mannhardt (37:03): But we love new phrases.

Rob Collie (37:05): Fourth industrial revolution, Justin, I missed two and three, but we're on the fourth.

Justin Mannhardt (37:10): Let's get into it.

Rob Collie (37:11): So I've discovered and just sort of talking to people at our company that we've been doing these sorts of things that I wasn't even aware of. And I'm like, "Oh my gosh, look, we are, we're doing the digital transformation then because we're solving problems."

Justin Mannhardt (37:24): A lot of it's not a big ambitious flat it's like, "Oh, that thing Susie does on the clipboard on the shop floor. Let's make an application for that." And it's like boom, boom, that's digital in very short order.

Rob Collie (37:37): Yeah. Your inventory. We've discovered this is great. Customers of ours who get their sort of core analytics and reporting under control for the first time ever, which is not a shame. Everyone's sort of in that phase. They're either you haven't got it under control for the first time ever. You're in the process of getting it under control for the first time ever. Or you have very recently got it under control for the first time ever.

(38:00): Those are the only three states of being you can exist in. But as soon as they start to round that corner, they start realizing like, "Oh my gosh, we've been slack in certain areas of our process, our operations as a company, because we wouldn't have been able to do anything differently even if we'd been disciplined. But now that we can see things, it's like, oh, we actually should make sure that our inventory count is correct."

Justin Mannhardt (38:25): Yeah, your early analytics have a tendency to really reveal opportunities or lag in your system. And inventory is a great example, or most of my pre-con consulting career was in some manufacturing style operation. He's like, oh, we want to know about what's going on with these work orders, and you reach a point like, oh, no, now you need to go to the file drawer behind so-and-so's desk because they're not entered in the system. You need to actually look at the job ticket.

(38:52): It's like, wow, man, we want what's written down on that now. You can fix that problem,

Rob Collie (38:58): So, any process that involves manual filling of forms, involves paper, whether and being printed or written on and subsequently collected processes that involve email, like emailing people and getting answers and then entering into some other spreadsheet somewhere. Maybe you're super sophisticated and you use a SharePoint list. Now we're getting somewhere, right? We're getting closer, but still, or spreadsheets that you distribute out and then collect, right?

(39:30): These are the things to look for. Those are the places where you can create time-

Justin Mannhardt (39:36): Fast.

Rob Collie (39:37): -you can create accuracy. Again, whenever you're doing something that creates time, you get many, many positive side effects, even above and beyond the time created. You can't replace something with something better and modern without gaining a bunch of other positive side effects other than just saving time.

(39:56): All right, Justin, I like this. I almost wish this could be the format every time, except that we'd eventually run out of things, right? There's probably 50, 60 of these total maybe ever that are generally applicable.

Justin Mannhardt (40:07): Make a note in your calendar. We'll make it a holiday tradition.

Rob Collie (40:12): Thanks for listening to the Raw Data by P3 Adaptive Podcast. Let the experts at P3 Adaptive help your business. Just go to p3adaptive.com. Have a data day.

Check out other popular episodes

Get in touch with a P3 team member

  • Hidden
  • Hidden
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Subscribe on your favorite platform.