Monday, June 4, 2018

A more holistic purpose of analytics

Why do people make bad decisions? Mostly because of insufficient or wrong information, but not always. So what should be done about it?

People make decisions all the time. In fact, some studies suggest we make a whopping 35,000 decisions every day. Other studies suggest that it's much less, perhaps 70 conscious decisions per day. Nevertheless, we make decisions all the time, even without noticing. And the same applies to work.

At work though, the decisions aren't about which shirt to wear or which flavor of ice-cream to buy. At work we are expected to make the right decisions. And how does that happen? By having the right input and arriving to the right conclusion. A key ingredient of course is information.



What do you think should be the purpose of an analytics function/team/department?

It's a tough question. Many senior leaders will struggle with purpose. Being responsible of data engineering, warehousing or analytics projects isn't a purpose, nor is providing data for decision making. Or even information. These things are not a purpose. They could still be important activities or responsibilities.
The purpose of analytics is to ensure the right decisions are made. 
- me
If you ask me what I do, I gravitate very quickly to ensuring we can make right - or at least better - decisions. If you are in analytics and this isn't your purpose, I would very much like to hear what is.

Yet, what often happens is that people confuse their job description with their purpose, leading them to spend time on tasks they've agreed with their manager six months back, not the things that improve decision making.

If the ETL pipe you are building is not helping people to make better decisions, why are you building it? Or the neural network, or the dashboard. What is the purpose of spending your precious time on them?
If you can do something that will lead to better/right decisions, isn't it your purpose to do it? What if it is sharing your skills to non-analytics people? What if it is facilitating culture change?

Think about the following:
  • Are people in the habit of making truth-seeking decisions?
  • What kind of decisions need to be made?
  • What would help make better decisions? (Tools, information, skills)
  • What prevents them? Where's the bottleneck?
So why am I writing about this? It is because there are probably some less obvious things that you can do to help make better decisions. Some of these things will shift control away from you to the colleagues around you, but it is completely aligned with your purpose. So if it is analytics you do, I urge you to think a little out of the box what actions can help your org make better decisions.

Some ideas:
  • Create a vision that motivates people to start making decisions.
  • Have workshops for anyone interested about data driven decision making.
  • Facilitate culture change towards data-driven decision making.
  • Share success stories inside your company to encourage others to seek your services.
Sometimes the best way to fulfill your purpose is not to crunch more numbers.

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