Better Business Analytics - 2013 New Year's Resolutions

10 resolutions for Better Business Analytics

Firstly - thank you Santa for reading my Christmas list. I love the T-shirt - "Statistics means never having to say you're certain".  With the holiday season coming to a close my thoughts are turning to the New Year and even a certain excitement about getting back to work.  Time for some new year's resolutions !

1. Remember that reporting is NOT analytics

One of the key misunderstandings of analytics in the business world and perhaps part of the reason good analytics is not well recognized for the value it creates is that managers think reporting IS analytics.

Per my previous post "Reporting is about what happened; Analytics is about answering your questions ... well-built Analytics or Predictive Models can find insights and opportunities that you will never find by any other means."

Do good analytics, shout about your success, spread the word.

2. Never, ever build to a manager's spec.

If when you visit your doctor he simply writes the prescriptions you ask for, I suggest you go find a new one, quickly. Unless you possess this expertise yourself, you must rely on your physician to diagnose your symptoms and prescribe action. To do otherwise would be very foolish.

When you (the analytic expert) are asked to build reports or models without explanation as to what it is for - don't do it. Business managers can help you enormously to understand the business context and the killer-questions that need to be answered, but unless they are also skilled in analytics you must bring that expertise to decide how to provide an effective solution.

3. Make sure your project is worth doing

This is really easy and yet so often overlooked. If you are looking for a million-dollar savings opportunity you are unlikely to find it in part of your operation that totals $2 million in cost. However analytically interesting a project may be, business analysts are paid because they generate a good return on investment. Do some simple estimation to see how big an opportunity could be before unpacking the big-guns. See some examples here

4. Use the right tools for the job (or everything looks like a nail)

To recount the old adage: if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. You must have met people like this, an expert in one particular technological or analytic approach, every single project they undertake is somehow ideally suited for that approach. I've known a few: Excel-experts, database-divas, simulation-specialists, statistics-sages, optimization-??,...

Do you build everything in Excel or in SQL or your favorite BI tool? Are you writing database code in your favorite (non-database) programming language? Has it been a while since you acquired the skill to wield a new tool effectively. Perhaps it's time to extend your skill-set.

5. Learn your craft (or know when to call for an expert)

The difference in skill-level between an analytic-expert and an amateur is huge. In my experience that skill-gap does not result in +10% incremental return on investment, it's the difference between a successful project and a relative failure.

Know when you are getting beyond your skill-level and either set yourself to learning quickly or call in the cavalry.

6. Remember that you are first and foremost in sales/change-management

In all honesty, the "analytics" may be the easy part of business-analytics. Even the most technically-adept analytics fail from a business standpoint unless action is enabled. Knowing that implementation of your project could save 20% in cost may give you a nice warm-fuzzy but unless it is implemented you wasted your time and the company's money. Do that repeatedly and you should brush-up your resume.

To be implemented, a result must be repeatedly and effectively sold-in to an organization. Take the time to present your results as a simple compelling argument for change and deliver that message consistently and often.

Analytics is a lot of fun, but leave a little space for other things in life

7.     Lose that 20 lbs
8.     Exercise more
9.     Eat healthy
10.   Have fun !!

What do you think should be on the list ?

Wishing you an Analytic New Year

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