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Frank Buytendijk
Frank Buytendijk
Vice President and Fellow, Enterprise Performance Management at Oracle


BI(g) in Japan

Posted about 11 years ago

While I am writing this, I am flying back from visiting Oracle Open World in Japan. I have spoken with many customers, and it strikes me that many of them have the same question. How have other Global organizations implemented BI and Performance Management? How have they overcome a certain problem? How can we close the gap that we have?

First of all, this assumes that there is a gap. Although there is certainly room for improvement – there always is – I didn’t think the companies I was speaking with were doing a bad job at all. Not better or worse than elsewhere in the world at least. The recent EPM Index study we recently did in NA and EMEA showed a score of 5.13 out of 10. And if I could take a stab at the level of maturity in Japan, I would rate that in the same category. 5 means lots of opportunity to work on, but also half-way there already.

Second of all, and more serious, the line of reasoning assumes that best practices in the West can be copied in the East. I doubt that. Michael Porter repeatedly said that in his eyes most Japanese companies do not have a strategy. That is quite a statement. Maybe what he meant to say was that most Japanese companies do not fit in his framework? A good theory is characterized by the clarity of its boundaries. Perhaps strategy theory is not universal? What a surprise.

I think in adopting BI and performance management there are three things to consider: management style, implementation practices and software.

The dominant style in Japan is very different than in other areas around the globe. Decision-making processes are much more bottom-up, a.k.a emergent strategies. The role of top-management is to provide council and to guide the process. Compare this to the West, where strategy formulation is seen as the responsibility of top management and then rolled out to the rest of the organization. In the West, strategy is seen as the big picture. In the East, strategy is a process of continuous improvement. OF COURSE the Western style of performance management isn’t adopted in Japan,

Honestly, I don’t think software is the issue. It can be used in many different ways. I think the real issue is that the implementation best practices do not take different cultures and styles into account. What is needed is a way of describing different styles and culture, and then derive an implementation style from that. I have done some preliminary work in this space as part of my book “Performance Leadership”, but by far not enough.

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