Old wine in new bottle and the missing keys to analytical success!!

With the huge amount of information and articles being written in blog posts, forums and seminars, I am increasingly seeing how the so-called veteran thought leaders, authors and opinion leaders are influencing , shaping and some almost coaxing the industry to keep looking at the old processes and frameworks as to how an enterprise should develop its analytics strategy and keys to its success.

In the past, these same pundits prophesized how enterprises should go about transformation in the name of pushing ERP products like SAP, Oracle, IBM and others and then companies ended up spending millions to customize to their business and some even after 10 years are still waiting to see their ROI.

In this fast paced age, implementing a product is only effective if it can deliver results within the 60 to 120 days timeframe, because markets and customers are moving faster than ever, and so by the time you implement something, there is no business case relevancy and you have to go back to the drawing board.

Most products today are based on a cloud offering, but that only solves less than half the problem, you don’t spend time and money on infrastructure (not completely true, you still pay for someone hosting it for you) , but yes you still need to customize it, so why use a product in the first place.

It is extremely disheartening to see, that these so called pundits, are now doing the same thing in the advanced analytics industry – prophesizing again how an enterprise should build an organizational framework, create separate departments, centers of excellence, “business oriented-BI” (can you believe it!) and ultimately box it and cage it so that all the large product companies will go and sell to these silos in organizations – and in one swipe there goes creativity and imagination out of the window that is so essential for doing advanced analytics.

After many a reading, I have come across may be one eminent opinion leader who emphasizes that advanced analytics is about creativity and imagination. He goes on to stress the point that for enterprises to have meaningful outcomes of their advanced analytics initiatives, they need to start with the right people, roles, then organization culture and lastly the organization itself.

Starting with the right people is key to analytical success – in a creative field like analytics, having the right people is very important – as the best people perform at least 8 to 10 times better than average people. Have one super- duper guy rather than many average performers is always the best bet; and top performers work with other top performers and this becomes a healthy contagious group.

This brings me to the roles that are important for advanced analytics initiatives within an enterprise. These top performers frame ideas as hypotheses and submit them to testing and experimentation but at the same time still gives business people the ability to offer their judgment and intuition. Successful analytics initiatives have always thrived when data scientists and developers with a diversity of skills have been allowed to flourish and are better off than a group of specialists – because specialists come with pre-conceived notions and that kills creativity. Specialists are good when you have well – defined requirements; in a fast moving market, analytics can thrive only when data developers capture requirements, build models, test and iterate over many times to reach some optimal critical point. With specialists they often end up doing just coordination activities.  The data scientist/developer is someone who should become a master in that business domain rather than becoming a technical specialist who says I am good at SAS or IBM SPSS, but does not know how he/she is contributing to business value. The ideal organization is where data scientists first align with business and then optimize technical functions. Your data scientists are supposed to be people who are curious, tenacious and passionate at whatever they do, these kind of data people learn technical skills very fast, for them technology is just a means to an end. The final point is the so-called thought leaders are misguiding the industry to thinking the same way the ERP revolution and its “product” henchmen pushed the enterprise into their regimented “within-the-box” thinking.

A very passionate plea to the industry thought leaders – smell the roses, don’t paint the vase please! – We need new wine, not new bottles- think fresh!!