How P&G Presents Data to Decision-Makers: Over 50,000 P&G employees now have access to a “Decision Cockpit”

How P&G Presents Data to Decision-Makers

by Tom Davenport  |   3:00 PM April 4, 2013

Those of us who believe that managers make better decisions when key data are presented visually tend to get very excited about all the innovation going on in the graphical display of information. (For a sampling of some new and cool tools, see the popular Hans Rosling TED talk.) However, if you work in a large organization and want it to make better use of data visualization, I’d argue thatcommonality is more important than creativity. If you can establish a common visual language for data, you can radically upgrade the use of the data to drive decision-making and action. The best case I can cite for this argument is Procter & Gamble, which has institutionalized data visualization as a primary tool of management. Working with visual analytics software vendor Tibco Spotfire, P&G has put visual displays of key information on desktops — over 50,000 P&G employees now have access to a “Decision Cockpit” (shown below).

MyCockpit-thumb-580x433-3673In addition to the desktop displays, P&G has built meeting spaces that it calls “Business Spheres” in over 50 locations where management information is displayed for review and decision-making by groups. Some of these rooms, like the one at P&G’s Cincinnati headquarters shown below, actually are spherical in shape, though most are conventional rectangular meeting rooms freshly outfitted with large screens on the walls.

Around the world, P&G managers are conferring in such rooms, with embedded analysts from P&G’s Information and Decision Solutions group aiding their deliberations with Spotfire-enabled visuals.

Some of the displays are quite cool — I particularly like, for example, the “heatmap” showing where P&G’s products stand in their respective markets. (See below.) But their purpose is not, of course, to dazzle managers with coolness and creativity. The real goal is to help them understand quickly what’s going on in the business, and to decide what to do about it. P&G’s CIO Filippo Passerini calls it “getting beyond the what to the why and the how.” If decision-makers have to spend too much time with the data figuring out what has happened in an important area of operations, they may never get to why it happened, or how to address the issue. Good visual displays keep the focus on managing the business by exception, and direct management attention to where it is most needed.

heatmap

Take the heatmap shown here (click to see a larger version), for example, which is a typical one for P&G in Europe. Simultaneously it shows all the markets in which P&G products compete and their relative share (red indicating low market share and green indicating high market share), and also puts in clear perspective the importance of growing the share of any one of those markets. Guy Peri, an IT Director at P&G who until recently was in charge of business analytics, explained why that perspective is useful:

Historically, we used to celebrate businesses or initiatives being “green” or spend time on businesses/initiatives that were red — when in comparison to the broader portfolio, those businesses/initiatives were relatively immaterial to the overall performance. With visual analytics, we are able to quickly focus business decision makers on the businesses issues that are material.

Having such displays in common use is especially important to P&G because it is an extremely global company, and prefers to develop managers by moving them regularly from one brand and geographical market to another. Consistent data visualization across the corporation reflects and supports that strategy. Step into a Business Sphere in Cincinnati, Singapore, or Geneva and you’ll see the same charts and graphs projected. Sit down at a desk in any P&G location, and the Decision Cockpit works the same way. P&G tries to make its graphics and colors “Apple simple” to ensure that managers can focus on the important business issues wherever they are in the world.

It’s also important, of course, that not only the displays but the information itself is common across the organization. At P&G, there are a set of seven “business sufficiency models” that specify what information is used to address a particular problem domain. If you’re focused on supply chain issues, for example, the sufficiency models specify the key variables, how they should be displayed visually, and (in some cases) the relationships between the variables and forecasts based on the relationships.

P&G’s dedication to common and well-understood data displays shows what is possible when senior managers are able to stop spending so much time discussing whose data is correct, what data should really be used, and how it should best be displayed. They can spend that much more time devising ways to address the problems and opportunities. It’s the creativity that is exercised on those fronts that really drives the success of businesses.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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