Too much talk in Analytics & too little action!

Is analytics yet another fad? Is there much more talk about it than real solid action. It does seem so when you look around you as a consumer.

Marketers still don’t care, as much, about being relevant to you. You get that umpteenth credit card solicitation from the bank which has already sold you a card. And nothing about a physical Retailer shopping experience makes it personal for you!

And yet your online persona seems to be treated differently & when you go to Amazon & other sites you do get a feeling of getting offers being recommended for you. And as a consumer you flit between your online & offline avatars & this becomes more & more obvious.

What’s the difference? Is there a category of organization which is able to leverage “data” far more effectively?

Gartner says that only 20% of enterprise will use more than 50% of the total data they collect to gain competitive advantage.

execution gap Gartner

This is what software architect Grady Booch had in mind when he uttered that famous phrase: "A fool with a tool is still a fool."

Google-executive-turned-Yahoo-CEO-thought-leader Marissa Mayer declares "data is apolitical" and that her old company succeeds because it is so data-driven: "It all comes down to data. Run a 1% test [on 1% of the audience] and whichever design does best against the user-happiness metrics over a two-week period is the one we launch. We have a very academic environment where we're looking at data all the time. We probably have somewhere between 50 and 100 experiments running on live traffic, everything from the default number of results to underlined links to how big an arrow should be. We're trying all those different things."

A recent Ad Age article carried this comment:

British Airways spent almost a decade corralling passenger data from 200 sources into one database. It built infrastructure to support the number crunching, but perhaps the harder piece, said Simon Talling-Smith, exec VP-Americas, is getting in-flight personnel to use the technology and data to create better consumer experiences. And BA introduced onboard iPads to send in-flight crews passenger-specific information, but Talling-Smith said encouraging staff to use them is still a challenge. "Probably half of the messages don't even get delivered," he said.

Maybe there are some learning’s here:

  1. Analytics doesn’t need you to solve a technical problem but a “business & social” problem. And most Business analysts have not spent much time in business roles. They are super specialized number crunchers without a sufficient exposure to business reality. Even if the managers have some exposure to business through experience across a variety of analytics projects, is it enough? Does this bring the analytics career into some jeopardy? Would analysts be able to grow in companies beyond a level or is it a parallel consulting stream only?
  2. Analysts need to “Story tell” to embed analytics into the fabric of the company. But analysts are too one-dimensional & not embracing the intersection of “technology, statistics & business”. So analysts struggle to tell stories. Often I see journalists do a far better job with infographics in media. But information journalists are not wanting a career in analytics & so there is a gap in “story telling”.
  3. Analytics is too theoretical. Not enough integration with systems has happened to push decisions to the point at which consumers interact with the business. This is far easier to do in new Online businesses which have built their systems around this capability. CIOs & technology teams in large existing offline businesses don’t see this as important.
  4. Average age of employees in online business is far lower. Younger people are adopting analytics far faster. They are getting exposed to it in their education & they are consuming it through their “digital avatars”. They see this often as a “no brainer”. Older executives are harder to convert to this line of thinking.


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Comment by Phil Krauskopf on January 13, 2015 at 7:51am

“…Analytics doesn’t need you to solve a technical problem but a “business & social” problem. And most Business analysts have not spent much time in business roles…”

 I whole-heartedly agree that this is a primary issue, although I’d go a bit further.  As the story contends, some analysts “…are super specialized number crunchers without a sufficient exposure to business reality…”   On the other hand, other analysts are story tellers who don’t understand how to get the story from the data.  They latch onto a few numbers, create a story that supports those numbers, and take off with it, even if those numbers are anomalous.  Then when the new tactics don’t work Data Science gets a bad rap.

A good data scientist understands both the business objectives as well as the data, how to question the data to get the correct answer, and understanding the limitations to that answer. 

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