ROCKART J., Chief Executives Define Their Own Data Needs. Harvard Business Review, March 1979


He could have been the president of any one of a number of successful and growing medium-sized companies in the electronics industry. He had spent the previous day working to salt away the acquisition of a small company that fitted an important position in the product line strategy he had evolved for his organization. Most of this day had been spent discussing problems and opportunities with key managers. During both days he had lived up to his reputation of being an able, aggressive, action-oriented chief executive of a leading company in its segment of the electronics field.

Unfortunately, the president had chosen the late afternoon and early evening to work through the papers massed on his desk. His thoughts were not pleasant. His emotions ranged from amusement to anger as he plowed through the papers. “Why,” he thought, “do I have to have dozens of reports a month and yet very little of the real information I need to manage this company? There must be a way to get the information I need to run this company!”

In effect, he was expressing the thoughts of many other general managers—and especially chief executive officers—whose needs for information are not as clearly determined as are those of many functional managers and first-line supervisors. Once one gets above the functional level, there is a wide variety of information that one might possibly need, and each functional specialty has an interest in “feeding” particular data to a general manager. As in this case, therefore, a massive information flow occurs. This syndrome is spelled out with differing emphases by the recent comments of two other chief executives:

“The first thing about information systems that strikes me is that one gets too much information. The information explosion crosses and criss-crosses executive desks with a great deal of data. Much of this is only partly digested and much of it is irrelevant…”

“I think the problem with management information systems in the past in many companies has been that they’re overwhelming as far as the executive is concerned. He has to go through reams of reports and try to determine for himself what are the most critical pieces of information contained in the reports so that he can take the necessary action and correct any problems that have arisen.”

It is clear that a problem exists with defining exactly what data the chief executive (or any other general manager) needs. My experience in working with executives for the past decade or more is that the problem is universally felt—with individual frustration levels varying, but most often high.

In this article, I will first discuss four current major approaches to defining managerial information needs. Next, I will discuss a new approach developed by a research team at MIT’s Sloan School of Management. Termed the “critical success factor (CSF) method,” this approach is being actively researched and applied today at the MIT center. Finally, I will describe in detail this method’s use in one major case as well as provide summary descriptions of its use in four other cases. Leggi l’articolo completo