Analytics Can Answer, “Why Can't …?

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Are you as curious as I am about why these questions have not been solved?

• Why can't traffic intersection stoplights be more variable based on street sensors that monitor the presence, location, and speed of approaching vehicles? Then you would not have to impatiently wait at a red light when there is no cross-traffic.

• Why can't a call center route your inbound phone call to a more specialized call center representative based on your phone number and previous call topics or transactions? And, once connected, why can't that call rep offer you rule-based deals or suggestions most likely to maximize your customer experience? Then you might get a quicker and better solution to your call.

• Why can't dentists and doctors synchronize patient appointment schedule arrival times to reduce the amount of time that so many people collectively sit idly in the waiting room? Then you could show up just before your treatment.

• Why can't airlines better alert their ground crews for plane gate arrivals? Then you don't have to wait, sometimes endlessly, for the jet bridge crew to show up and open the door.

• Why can't hotel elevators better position the floors the elevators arrive at to pick up passengers based on when hotel guests depart their rooms? Then you don't have to get stuck on a slow “milk-run” elevator stopping at so many floors while an “express” elevator subsequently arrived and could have quickly taken you to your selected floor.

• Why can't airport passport control managers regulate the number of agents in synchronization with the arrivals of international flights? Then you don't have to wait in long queue lines, while later the extra staff shows up (sometimes).

• Why can't retail stores, at least when men enter them, partner with credit card companies and their transaction histories and use algorithms like Amazon.com and Netflix do to suggest what a customer might want? Then you might more quickly find what you are shopping for.

• Why can't water, gas, and electrical utility suppliers to home residences provide instant monitoring and feedback so that households can determine which appliances or events (e.g., taking showers) consume relatively more or less? Then households could adjust their usage behavior.

• Why can't personnel and human resource departments do better workforce planning on both the demand and supply side? That is, for the supply side, why can't they predict in rank order the most likely next employee to voluntarily resign, based statistical data (e.g., age, pay raise amount, or frequency) of employees who have resigned? For those who will retire, isn't this predictable? For the demand side, why can't more accurate forecasts of sales volume be translated into headcount capacity planning by type of skill or job group? Then the workforce will match the needs without scrambling when mismatches occur.

• Why can't magazines you subscribe to print at the time of production an issue customized to you that has advertisements (and maybe even articles) that you likely care more about based on whatever profile they may have about you? Then the magazine's content may be more relevant to you.

• Why can't your home's refrigerator and pantry, using microchips and barcode scanners, keep track of what you purchased and the rate of usage? Then you could better replenish them when out shopping.

• Why can't CFOs and financial controllers allocate expense to products, standard service lines, and customers with cause-and-effect factors (i.e., activity drivers)? Why do they continue to use broad-brush and averaged factors? Then users of the cost information could make better decisions compared to the flawed and misleading costs that are typically reported.

Are these a vision of the future? Not in all cases. With analytics software, advanced managerial accounting software, and communication technology, some if not all of these questions are already solvable. It is time for gut-feel, intuition, guessing, and flawed information to be replaced by applying analytics to better manage organizations and better serve their customers. ###

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What's Strategy Management?

Gary Cokins shares his advanced cost management and performance improvement systems expertise with the Business Finance community.

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