Monday, February 10, 2014

The Art in Ownership

Every analyst who has been called in to a consulting gig recognizes that money, the capital behind the business, carries a fair amount of power. He who has the gold makes the rules, and all that. The actual relationship between a company's owners and its employees is however substantially more sublime. The primary power at owners' disposal is hiring, firing, and purchasing, but they may only exercise these within the constraints of their detailed knowledge of the actual day-to-day operations that their employees support. This is where your role as an analyst faces its greatest challenge: in effect you are pinching the constriction of knowledge as it straddles across the employees and the management.

I have only found two ways to respectably play my cards as an agent of knowledge restructuring between these two parties. The first option is to nominally side with management, the second option is to firmly stand by the employees. In the first case you become an extension to the desires of hatchet men, using their power indirectly while pressuring the employees to reveal their knowledge. This method is best executed from the role of an outside consultant.

The second alternative, siding firmly with employees, requires that you nonetheless "package" your presentations to appeal to the baser, monetarist side of management. In either case you need to remain a bit guarded and two faced, hence in the end falling a bit short of the unrealistic expectations of both parties.

Society imposes its wishes on business owners with a large and diffuse glove, that can occasionally sprout spikes of glistening razor-sharp titanium. Enforcement can sprout as tax compliance, licensing issues, fair trade rulings, patent law, or numerous other sundry regulatory appendages. Occasionally you may find yourself defining a system with some sideways legal considerations. The safe way to approach this is to make sure that /some/ sort of audit trail exists, should management decide that at some point in the future they need to more tightly, retroactively, comply.

The symmetry between a businesses' owners and its customers is perhaps one of the most deeply studied aspects of capitalism. When all is said and done however it really boils down simply to two managed aspects of a buyer-seller relationship. The owner/seller is trying to optimize the services and products they will provide, and the buyers are choosing the best "value" given their variable and shifting tastes. As an analyst you are therefore trying primarily to implement a system that provides both immediate and ongoing value-added efficiencies. Customers can sense however when they are being manipulated; be wary therefore if your system is going to provide further margin to your employer without a concordant benefit that gets passed along to the customer.