Editor’s note: This piece is an adaptation of an article written by Karim Zuhri, GM & COO at Cascade, and first published on Forbes. The content has been updated for the purpose of our blog.
You’ve heard that the business environment and the marketplace are rapidly changing. It might even sound like a buzz phrase by now.
But consider this: Accenture’s Global Disruption Index shows that levels of disruption increased by 200% from 2017 to 2022. In comparison, the Index rose by only 4% from 2011 to 2016.
This incredible pace of change demands faster decision-making and execution than ever. It puts leaders under pressure to quickly recognize opportunities or issues, shift resources and deliver results. This is where unlocking centralized business observability plays a crucial role.
Most companies are caught in a fog of too many data sources, disconnected tools, information overload, and the sheer number of projects. Two-thirds of business leaders see their organizations as overly complex and inefficient.
So what happened to efficiency? Believe us, efficiency still is the name of the game—more than ever. It’s just waiting for business observability to unlock it.
What Is Business Observability?
Business observability is about having a clear and comprehensive view and understanding of what's happening within a business at any given time.
“Understanding” is the key word here.
While many businesses focus on providing visibility, 48% of organizations report their employees struggle due to a lack of business context when accessing and/or analyzing data.
They see the data, but they don’t understand it.
Business observability involves the collection, analysis, and visualization of data and context from different sources across the organization.
The goal of business observability is to help you understand the root cause of any business situation. This enables you to quickly identify patterns, trends, and issues that might be hindering your success, and to take appropriate action.
Why Is Business Observability Important?
Faster and more effective business decisions
A more thorough understanding of business context combined with real-time insights allows you to make faster and better-informed decisions, respond promptly to any changes, and capitalize on emerging opportunities or address potential issues.
Better financial performance
Business observability makes it easier to quickly identify bottlenecks, shift resources, and streamline processes which results in cost optimization and resource allocation.
It’s much easier to keep employees focused on shared goals when they can assess progress, make course corrections, and understand the “why” behind the data. High levels of alignment result in 2.4x higher revenue growth and 2.0x higher growth in profitability.
Once everyone understands what business impact actions and processes have on key business metrics, it becomes easier to adapt to all kinds of changes and disruptions. That’s especially important when dealing with as many unknown factors as there have been recently.
Faster innovation and competitive advantage
Business observability makes it easier to closely monitor your operations and cross-reference them with emerging trends. By identifying opportunities you can stay ahead of the curve, enhance customer experience, and retain a competitive edge.
Overall, business observability is critical for businesses to stay competitive in today's environment. It accelerates troubleshooting and decision-making while helping you to improve efficiency and uncover valuable insights for sustainable growth.
Challenges That Limit Business Observability And Strategy Execution
Disconnected tools and data silos
A disconnected toolset, which is a reality for most companies, means that chunks of data are stored in separate systems or digital business applications and used only by specific departments. In fact, 56% of businesses named the lack of integration between data sources as a top challenge on their way to data transparency.
This makes it impossible to achieve full-stack observability and a unified and real-time view of operations. Even worse, inaccurate, incomplete, or outdated data can skew root cause analysis and lead to incorrect or incomplete strategic insights.
Lack of real-time context
Without an observability solution that provides real-time data in context, employees struggle to understand the current state of processes, progress toward business objectives, and how individual activities fit into the bigger picture.
Too many priorities and complexity
The complexity of managing multiple priorities simultaneously can quickly become overwhelming if you have no clear indicator of what deserves your attention and why.
Leading companies are 23% more likely to indicate they concentrate only on the distinctive activities that drive performance. These activities are much easier to recognize if you have an observability strategy in place.
False sense of alignment
Actual strategic alignment among employees, managers, and executives is two to three times lower than perceived alignment.
That staggering gap between perception and reality happens mostly due to the lack of understanding of the business strategy. Executives assume visibility of the strategic objectives is enough. They know employees can see the strategy, so they assume they understand it. But that’s often not the case.
Employees need a clear understanding of how their actions impact business objectives and how they fit into the wider strategy. Only then can companies reach true alignment and move from visibility to observability.
Inadequate monitoring tools and human resources
Until recently, achieving business observability required IT systems, DevOps, and IT Operations teams who could gather, analyze and interpret data. Many businesses didn’t have the resources or expertise in-house to manage such operations effectively.
With solutions like Cascade, it’s much easier to centralize, automate, and visualize data in a way that can be understood by all employees without the need for a whole team of data analysts.
Now that we covered the benefits of business observability and the challenges related to it, let's see how you can achieve it with Cascade’s help.
How To Achieve Centralized Business Observability?
Here’s our roadmap to successful strategy execution through centralized business observability.
1. Centralize key business metrics, strategies, and financial impact
Centralizing your key data allows stakeholders to have a unified and accessible view of crucial information. But you can’t centralize data with just any platform—you need integrations and automations that will connect your existing tools under “one roof”.
Cascade has over 1,000 of them. Whether your key data resides in Salesforce, Google Sheets, Excel, Google Analytics, Hubspot, or any other of the popular tools, you can connect them to Cascade, track and manage the data and present it in clear, visualized dashboards that are easy to understand.
2. Run performance analysis to enable prioritization
Assessing the progress and effectiveness of your strategic initiatives and identifying areas that require attention is a crucial task that many leaders dread. Getting a spreadsheet full of data and graphs that you must make sense of can be a nightmare.
Cascade makes performance analysis as simple as possible with powerful dashboards and actionable strategy reports. Tracking performance in Cascade simplifies the evaluation of your strategic initiatives and gives you the context to prioritize actions based on their business impact.
Dashboards tailored to your needs make tracking of priorities even clearer and ensure you have the most relevant business intelligence at your fingertips.
3. Build alignment and relationships between teams to deliver impact
Cascade empowers operations teams to collaborate on goal-setting, strategy development, and progress tracking. It promotes transparency, alignment, and cross-functional collaboration through the objective alignment map.
The map shows the breakdown of the top-level objectives of your plan, thereby letting you know how vertically and horizontally aligned your work is. The map helps you see the bigger picture clearer than ever before.
4. Implement effectiveness measures and strategic initiatives
During this step, you need to translate identified priorities and actions into strategic initiatives and relevant Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).
Cascade enables you to create a structured framework that guides the execution of set initiatives, assigns accountability, and ensures that progress is being made toward desired business outcomes.
It’s also easy to set transparent KPIs that will tell each department, team, and individual if they’re on the right track and show them how their work connects to strategic objectives.
5. Regular performance and progress reports
Real-time dashboards and reports are an important snapshot of current performance and progress. They are also seen as a nuisance as they take time to create.
Cascade lets you auto-generate reports based on the tracked data. It enables you to quickly create up-to-date visualizations of key metrics, giving you and any interested stakeholders a comprehensive view of performance in real time. It’s an easy and effective way to keep everyone in the loop.
Cascade reports can be customized according to their audience and purpose. Both reports and dashboards create a contextualized narrative that displays relevant data and information, and Cascade helps you use the option that’s best for your purpose.
6. Adapt your strategy
Having the power to quickly adapt your strategy is crucial if you want to respond to changing market dynamics, customer needs, and internal factors.
By using Cascade's flexible framework, you can continuously review and adjust your strategy based on real-time insights and feedback. You can easily change priorities and plans and share them with your whole organization.
Such an iterative approach ensures that your strategy remains relevant and aligned with your business goals. It creates adaptability that allows your organization to be agile and responsive.
Examples Of Centralized Business Observability In Action
Teresa Dunne, the Enterprise Strategy Execution Leader at RSM US, and Thomad Molenaar, Head of Digital Marketing at Dechra Pharmaceuticals PLC were the speakers at Cascade’s Strategy Palooza 2023 Business Observability Panel and they shared some interesting and actionable insights about business observability and its use cases.
RSM and Dechra use Cascade to make it easier to observe, share and engage with data across functions. Cascade helps them empower people to see and understand processes and progress that’s happening and plays a crucial role in maintaining business observability.
“It’s all about cutting through the complexity and really understanding what’s driving success, what’s causing issues, and using these data-driven insights to be able to quickly make decisions or take actions,” says Dunne.
“Observability is not just about what you see. It’s about recognizing what needs to change. It comes down to understanding connections between people, between projects, between teams, objectives, and priorities that then enable action,” says Molenaar.
Combine alignment with active cross-functional collaboration
To unlock the full value of alignment, organizations have to form a web or cross-functional collaboration and foster engagement.
Being able to collaborate and see across functions is powerful and a huge step towards achieving business observability. Here’s a best practice from RSM Dunne shared with us:
“A best practice that we’ve employed is peer groups of key leaders across the organization. This is not just the top of the organization, but leaders that are impactful on the ground and leading people in the field to help us make progress. They can share their successes, review the strategy scorecard, show where we’re having challenges, and where we can do better and help each other along. Bringing them together really helped with the cross-functional alignment.”
“Knowing how, within this web (speaking of a large organization), we’re all trying to achieve the same thing gives people ownership of the strategy. It’s about going out and understanding what is it that I’m doing and how it is helping other people achieve their job, and how can we work together to move forward,” adds Molenaar.
Align processes, not just objectives
“The most basic place to start (with strategy execution) is to create processes you are going to follow and align where needed across the organization - even on simple things like terminology. Aligning around processes when it comes to strategy execution will enable you to begin down a path,” Dunne says.
Engage and empower people across the organization to make strategic decisions on their level
“We do regular strategy communication to the entire organization - around progress, around our strategy, what it means. We do strategy reviews that dig into certain topics and explain what the work that we’re doing means to people. So it’s not just this high-level initiative we’re working on, but we explain how it impacts you. Those are some of the ways that we try to engage people and make it real to them across the organization,” explains Dunne.
“We’re not as far as RSM at our organization at this stage (regarding business observability). For us, it’s very much about getting feedback from the people at this stage—learning their thoughts and if the strategy resonates with their team. Communication is essential to even start talking about strategy execution and build this web.” adds Molenaar.
Use technology to make your life easier
Dunne is aware that achieving business observability is no simple feat. She says that the right technology and user experience are important to get employees on board and make the process simpler for everyone. And that’s exactly what Casade did for RSM and Dechra.
Business Observability Platform Vs. Strategy Execution Platform: Which One Is The Right For You?
With Cascade, you don’t have to pick. You get the best of both worlds in one tool: centralized data, iterative business planning, and execution in one place.
- Cascade’s 1,000+ integrations enable you to have a central place where you track your data and strategy execution, allowing data collection, organization, and transparency.
- Customizable dashboards and automated reports help you visualize strategic insights and progress. You’ll find it easy to keep everyone in the loop, understand things at a glance, identify trends based on insights, and make informed decisions.
- Cascade shows you the bigger picture. The context everyone sees drives alignment. The objective alignment map shows the breakdown of the top-level objectives of your plan, thereby letting you understand how your efforts contribute to the business goals.
Centralized observability gives you the power to accurately prioritize and make fast decisions. It enables you to efficiently execute your business strategy, eliminating the fog that hampers many businesses and bringing into sharp focus the results that matter the most.
Achieve Centralized Business Observability With Cascade
What is the difference between monitoring and observability?
Monitoring focuses on tracking and analyzing data to ensure the health and performance of systems or applications.
Business observability is a broader concept that involves understanding and measuring the overall behavior and performance of a business. It includes analyzing data from various sources, such as customer interactions and financial metrics, to make informed decisions and optimize business operations.