Blackbox Insights: ‘What can be measured can be improved’

  • Business intelligence is more actionable and timely than mere information
  • Identifying sustainable profit source important for business health


Blackbox Insights: ‘What can be measured can be improved’


FIRST starting off as a corporate social responsibility initiative with the noble cause of empowering Malaysian small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs), Blackbox Insights Sdn Bhd was established in 2014 and has rapidly grown since.

At the inaugural SHIFT Business Tech Seminar 2018, the chief operating officer of Blackbox, Desmond Ng (pic) explained that the company was started by Lim Kim Heng, the founder of Senheng Electric (KL) Sdn Bhd.

Ng says, “Senheng adopted business intelligence 15 years ago and has become a billion ringgit company triple the size of their closest competitor, Harvey Norman.”

To date, a sum of RM11 million (US$247, 365) has been invested in Blackbox Insights. Ng says that the company believes it is a good cause since SMEs account for about 80% of the workforce, “We want to transfer this knowledge to SMEs to improve the quality of life in Malaysia and I think we have managed to achieve this dream sooner that we thought.”

The company holds a portfolio of 65 clients which include familiar names like Borders, Big Bad Wolf Books, Mr DIY, A-Saloon and its latest project, Petsmore. “We’ve managed to help turn Petsmore around in a span of seven months,” Ng says.

Capitalising on data technology, Blackbox Insights provides clients with business intelligence to solve problems and grow their business. “The difference between information and intelligence is that intelligence is more actionable and timely,” Ng says.

To illustrate his point, he says “When a company does a performance review and identifies problems, it is already too late to solve them.”

While problems may vary across businesses and industries, the ultimate goal of any business is the same – to create profit. “To turn a company around, this strategic intent needs to be clear to all employees,” Ng says.

He stresses the importance of management being transparent with employees within their company, “Don’t be too concerned about confidentiality. Share your concerns and goals with your employees.”

In order to create a business that is scalable and replicable, Ng believes that creating sustainable profit is vital. “To ensure your profits are sustainable, you must know where it comes from. Otherwise, it can go as fast as it comes.”

According to Ng, a common problem experienced by SMEs is that the knowledge of the business is held by solely by the founders and it is lacking among the other members of the company. “Because of this, delegation of jobs become difficult and the company suffers as soon as the founder retires,” Ng shares.

When Blackbox Insights was first starting off, it faced challenges in convincing businesses on the potential of data analytics and struggled to close deals. Ng explains that many founders perceived the introduction of business intelligence as “too much work” since their staff were already overloaded.

However, Ng says that a lot of companies are busy but struggle to produce favourable results. “The wrong actions produce the wrong results. The degree of profits depends on how well companies manage their tasks and problems.”

Being a believer in the power of data, he says that company key performance indicators (KPIs) need to be revisited to ensure alignment to company goals, “We have to introduce new KPIs and inculcate a new culture. After all, what can be measured can be improved.”


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