Urgent versus Important Data - Eisenhower's Time Management Matrix
Former American President Eisenhower was quoted as saying “What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.” This approach to time management in business has been explored by many people over the years, including author Stephen Covey. His novels The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and First Things First, together with his time management matrix, popularised the concept of time management techniques in business.
Looking at it from a data and business intelligence perspective, many organisations store large amounts of data that is important but not urgent. They still need access to this information on a regular basis, but changes to the data will not occur every few minutes or seconds. This data may be used to create scheduled reports at the end of specific periods, but businesses also need easy access for ad-hoc enquiries. Reports produced from this data are less likely to require immediate attention, but are important for developing business strategies and long-term planning. This rich data is also very useful for analysing performance, looking at trends over time, and identifying exceptions which may be skewing results. Dashboard reporting software can display this complex information in an easy to read fashion as a series of interactive charts. Instead of scrolling through pages of a report looking for unusual data, or trying to identify patterns, this information is easy to identify on a BI dashboard. Charts also give decision makers a picture of how their business is performing at the present time. Unlike traditional reports, dashboard software is interactive which allows users to explore the data, drill through layers of information and focus on different time periods with a few mouse clicks.
Urgent data refers to information that changes on a regular basis which requires immediate attention. The consequences of not dealing with these unforeseen events would have an immediate impact on the business. Being able to respond in an informed manner relies on having access to the most up to date information. Periodically running reports and relying on data that is weeks or months out of date during a crisis is likely to have a negative impact. Business intelligence solutions can operate in real-time, where decision makers have instant access to the latest data. A real time solution is not always a necessity and its usefulness will depend upon the type of organisation and industry. However, where frequent changes regularly occur, and where a business needs to react in a timely manner, a business intelligence dashboard is a powerful tool for decision makers.