Planning Analytics

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Sell the problem, not the solution

By Errol Brandt posted Fri June 24, 2022 08:46 PM


At the risk of being somewhat off-topic here, please indulge me to share a video that I recently published on YouTube about the collapse of Enron.  

We're all familiar with how the story ended, but you're probably not aware how it started.

Now I know this is not IBM technology and I'm certain that the same (or better) result could have been achieved with Watson, but I wanted to make the point that the technical community could do a better job engaging with customers by talking less about the technical solution, and more about business problem.

Sentiment Analysis

To give you the short version, a post-mortem analysis of the internal communications between the top 150 leaders of Enron revealed a massive drop in sentiment when the board approved LJM, one of the corporate vehicles used to manipulate financial statements. With the benefit of hindsight we could now say this was THE MOMENT Enron went off the rails. 

Andy Fastow, the CFO at the centre of this scandal, now believes this kind of technology could help avoid similar failures in the future. Although, given the board's broader governance issues, I don't think it would have saved Enron.

Selling the Problem

Of course, textual analysis (and sentiment analysis) is not new. What's new here is the way the technology was applied to a business problem. That is vastly more interesting to customers than the underlying technology.  In fact, I doubt any CFO (or board for that matter) would be remotely interested in Natural Language Understanding. But I'm certain they would be interested to hear about how technology could help THEM avoid becoming Enron 2.0.

To me, the same concept applies to IBM Planning Analytics. A lot of the marketing is about how much faster or more accurate budgeting can become once you've adopted the technology, but it's not a compelling message. In memory, scenario analysis, multi-threading, blah blah blah..

What sold me and my organisation on IBM Planning Analytics was the sudden death of my team member. He had developed a complex network of linked spreadsheets, of course totally undocumented and unvalidated. If you want to find a motivated customer, I was it.  

I needed a solution quickly, and I wanted the best. I was just fortunate that Cortell, our IBM Business Partner, had already established a relationship and delivered on the promise. 

Anyway, that's just my perspective. Hopefully you find it interesting, if nothing else.

1 comment



Mon October 10, 2022 03:40 PM

Thank you for sharing, Errol!

I just joined the team, as a Content Lead for Planning Analytics. This is my first week here and I feel the same. Too much showcase of features and benefits and very low visibility on the problems and outcomes.

As Simon Sinek very beautifully said 'People don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it'

I will take on the mission to change that. Thanks again!