Monday, December 8, 2014

McKinsey: Making Data Analytics Work

To hear it from management consultants, data scientists, and CEOs of firms in this space, is to get the impression that Big Data and Analytics is the saving grace or the holy grail of competitive advantage. Moreover, it is to believe that this is the endgame for any smart company out there, especially if they seek to lift revenue and profit markedly.  It is to think that this is the new wave in how to run a business, serve customers, and transform the organization.

I say, Let's put Big Data and Analytics in perspective, and begin with what you, as the CEO, and your leadership team are trying to accomplish with your business.  What are the broad and particular targets you're aiming to hit, and how well have you done so?  What is the essential reason or purpose you're in this business, and what values do you and your people hold near and dear?  What challenges, obstacles or issues do you face, have been facing, and anticipate facing?  What are the needs, gaps or opportunities in your customer base and in the broad market, which you seek to tap into?       

You see, the major irony of Big Data and Analytics is it does not begin with Big Data and Analytics, but with the fundamentals of your business: again, purpose and reason, targets or aims, challenges and opportunities.  The next step is to take as hard and unvarnished of a look as possible about what you and your people need to do to serve this purpose.  There may be numerous things to look at: from infrastructure and equipment, to operations and process, to sales and marketing, to leadership and workforce.  If you believe at this stage that you need better insight into all of these, more effective means for making decisions, greater effort at tapping potential, then bring Big Data and Analytics dead center in your radar.  You explore its possibilities not as an end in itself, but as a means of serving your purpose.      

You need to be very clear on what kind of business value you want to create with your data transformation.
What Matthias Roggendorf articulates is sound enough vis-a-vis my opening remarks: Be clear on what you expect Big Data and Analytics to do for your business.  I might add, however, that the benefit you need to demonstrate with this effort is largely determined by how well Big Data and Analytics serves your purpose and how necessary it is in relation to your targets.

Working data analytics is about getting hardware + software + PEOPLEware right. 

I attended a Big Data and Analytics shindig with IBM two years ago, and one speaker emphasized, as Matthew Ariker did, the need to build capability.  The speaker also included the need to build appetite in the organization.  Again, tech firms and analytic consultancies may focus on technology, statistics, and process, but without due attention to people matters, the best of what they have to offer will fall like a lead balloon.  What are these people matters?  Skill sets, previous experience, requisite knowledge, proper motivation, clear commitment, and right buy in.

Manage data + run mathematics + just do it = winners vs losers.

Tim McGuire does a fine job of beginning with the end in mind, in relation to his clientele.  You may call it starting with a hypothesis as you do in science or identifying what problem you're trying to solve, but it speaks exactly to what I advise.  Without clear purpose at the outset, you and your people can soak up enormous time, effort and resources going nowhere.  

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