Q: I am designing a sales and marketing data mart for an insurance company, and I will be interviewing company executives on the performance metrics they use to measure their business. Are there some standard questions I should be asking them so that I don't miss any relevant data?

Sid Adelman's Answer:

These are a couple of standard questions and a few that are not so standard:

  1. What are the business metrics you care about?
  2. What are the measurements you watch each day?
  3. Are there key performance indicators (KPIs) we have for our company and how do we measure them?
  4. What are the measurements by which you measure your subordinates?
  5. How do you measure yourself?
  6. How does Wall Street measure us?
  7. What are the metrics the analysts use to evaluate us?
  8. Do we know how our competitors measure themselves?
  9. Is there any measurement we are not using today that potentially could give us a competitive edge?
  10. Do you feel that each department is using appropriate measurements?
  11. Are you comfortable with the timeliness of the metrics you receive? If not, how fast do you need them?

Clay Rehm Answer:

I would recommend hiring someone to do this for you who has experience doing this and who has professionalism and is comfortable with talking with executives. Executives like most people are very busy and your questions must be very business oriented and non-technical. You will lose your audience immediately if you come in with a technical bent to your questions. Of course you would sit in these sessions so you can learn how to do additional ones on your own.

The questions you will be asking need to focus on what is important to them day to day. What makes them come to work each day? What are they trying to solve? How can they reduce expenses and become more profitable? How can they get recognized and promoted?

Don't ask them what reports they want or what should be on the report - ask them what problems they face each day and if they could change things, what they would do to solve them. You will then take this information with you to identify what they need.

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