Business reviews are surprisingly under-engineered and under-invested, despite being one of the most common organizational rituals. As we embark on a new week, month, and quarter, let’s delve into business reviews and explore how data, finance, and business leaders can significantly enhance this critical aspect of business operations.

Let’s delineate four stages of evolution in how business reviews are conducted within organizations.

Level 1

  • At the most basic level, executive teams convene on a regular cadence, though not considering it a top priority.
  • Meetings lack a consistent agenda, often involving topics “du jour” without a structured approach. Discussions wander into debates on strategy and tactics without a firm grasp of metrics, drivers, and ongoing initiatives.
  • Attention tends to gravitate towards seemingly urgent “fires”, influenced by the most vocal executives.

Level 2

  • The executive team meets regularly, and consistently reviews the state of the union.
  • However, these sessions involve an overwhelming amount of information—a "chart dump" of numerous metrics and trends—accompanied by lengthy updates on ongoing projects. Executives struggle to dive deeper and answer questions.
  • There's a lack of editing and organization in reviewing the metrics, and there is lack of clarity in how the initiatives are performing against the desired outcomes.

Level 3

  • The finance and business teams play an active role in preparing and curating the content prior to the review session.
  • However, due to the time consuming nature of this work today and limited bandwidth for a priori deep dives, there is a fair amount of simplistic story-telling during these discussions.
  • Actionable next steps are rare but a long list of “deeper dive” followups is often shared after the meeting - a small % of these typically get addressed during the next discussion.

Level 4

  • At this highest level, data, finance and business teams skillfully coordinate to collate insightful content, investing both time and effective tooling upfront.
  • Discussions center on uncovering the ground truth with the business review process aiming to answer the following questions:
    • Is variation in observed metrics significant?
    • Are our initiatives working as planned, and if not, how do we course-correct?
    • What are we learning about the business model - the inputs and outputs?
    • What truly drives our metrics, and what factors are within our control?
  • This process serves as a vital mechanism for refining both the strategy and tactics, fostering iterative learning across the organization.

The barriers to reaching level 4 are both cultural and time/tooling investments. But, once an organization is operating at this level, the score will take care of itself, ensuring sustained growth and value creation for the enterprise.