Is Analytics more an art or is it more a science? 2 of 3

gapminder-data-visualization-psfk1 - CopyRecently, a friend of mine replied to a post asking me for more details about how I would analyze and mitigate risk in a business…. “the details are a little thin. As a former professor of business decision science, I would like to read more about the model building tools and techniques of how you do it.”

My reply was “That’s a great question Chris. As a blogger I try to not go into too much detail in these posts as most of my audience is relatively unfamiliar with concepts like Big Data, Business Intelligence Applications and Predictive Analytics. That said, I can think of a couple of ways to reply to your comment. I often say that Analytics is as much an art as it is a science. So, I will craft two blog response one for the artists and one for the scientists.” And then I will conclude with my own unique approach to analytics.

So yesterday we covered the science side, today lets look at the art side. They say a picture is worth 1000 words, well I agree and would take things further and say a good pie chart is worth 10000 rows of data. 🙂

Analytics as an art form is a more appealing to the average person, because most people don’t like math. They are afraid of having to use excel and rows and rows of data confuses them. This is why we have analytics, so people who do like math, numbers and excel can figure things out for the majority who don’t.

One of the big buzzwords going around right now is storytelling. Businesses need to engage customers in the way people are engaged by a good story. Marketing team are charged with connecting with an audience in the same way a great film maker or author does. And to do this, marketers have to be very good at getting their data and analytics to a point where it can tell that story.

Data visualization is one of the most powerful skills an analyst can use. Whether it be by using charts and graphs in excel, an info graphic or a business intelligence tool like Tableau that creates data visualizations; analysts can now be artists as much as scientists.

So what does this have to do with my friend Chris’s question about business decision science. It used to be that most decision were made after a long process of drafting requirements for the IT team, a long development cycle and static reporting put into place. However, that’s old school. Now good leaders and decision-makers access data themselves and do a lot of their analysis by playing around with the data.

Knowing what data to pull, how to analyze it for patterns and trends and putting into a format where it can be used by decision makers is still the same, what’s different if the ability to get it to tell a story to the audience. My all time favorite master of data visualization is Dr. Hans Rosling, If you don’t know who he is, check out his site http://www.gapminder.org

Watching him in action is the best way to see why I think that analytics is more of an art then a science. You can have all the data in the world, and you can have great analytics talent working with it using cutting edge technology. But if you can’t use that data to influence your audience in powerful ways, then you are missing the boat.

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Sharing a friend’s article – The War for Talent Rages in SE Asia!

http://www.sunstar.com.ph/cebu/business/2013/08/27/toral-digital-recruitment-insights-300020

My friend Janette recently wrote, “THE war for talent is real. Companies need to start treating people they recruit similar to responding to customer inquiries or complaints online. The slowness in responding to applicants can be the difference between hiring a highly qualified applicant now or taking only what is left in the market.”

This is one of the points I emphasize in my Recruitment Analytics trainings classes. There are so many ways that a good recruiter can make a difference, but I think the most important is engaging their candidates in a timely manner. If you work with good recruiters, you see that they manage their candidate pipelines very well… they never let them feel like they are in the dark and the recruiters create an atmosphere of approachability.

In short they follow-up often. And the digital world allows us to do this so much easier than ever before.

Janette adds, “Companies should level up and embrace digital at the same level as marketing uses it to reach out to prospects and customers.” They can do this by using the following tools:
> Use websites as a tool not only to attract customers but also prospective employees.
> Use social networking tools to build their digital influence and make themselves accessible online.
> Foster an open communication culture using the various modes of communication we have available.

As one of my best friends and colleagues at BPO Elite, Rachelle explains to me… in the end the most important thing is to find the right person for the right position. To do this you will see good recruiters embracing new technologies and take full advantage of the digital resources available to them.

And of course the best thing about using these digital resources is that they are chock full of analytics. LinkedIn, Bullhorn, Indeed, Facebook, Twitter, etc. all offer free analytics tools embedded in the applications that allow you to see who is seeing and following you. For a recruiter, it’s an amazingly powerful way to stay engaged with their candidates because they can see patterns and trends in who they interact with.

For more info on what Janette is up to, you can follow her at https://www.facebook.com/digientrepreneur

Is Analytics more an art or is it more a science? 1 of 3

PrintRecently, a friend of mine replied to a post asking me for more details about how I would analyze and mitigate risk in a business…. “the details are a little thin. As a former professor of business decision science, I would like to read more about the model building tools and techniques of how you do it.”

My reply was “That’s a great question Chris. As a blogger I try to not go into too much detail in these posts as most of my audience is relatively unfamiliar with concepts like Big Data, Business Intelligence Applications and Predictive Analytics. That said, I can think of a couple of ways to reply to your comment. I often say that Analytics is as much an art as it is a science. So, I will craft two blog response one for the artists and one for the scientists.” And then I will conclude with my own unique approach to analytics.

So let’s tackle the science angle first. In corporate and academic circles, analytics is looked at primarily as a science. You have millions of pieces of data, you take that data and you analyze it and then you use the analysis in your decision-making. There is a lot of science in this approach.

I often say that in the past two days we have created more data than we created in the entire history of human existence up to the past few years. This is big data… it’s mostly unstructured and its challenging to manage. It takes an understanding of how data is collected, stored, accessed and disseminated. This is why analytics usually starts with the IT team. They manage the databases that do all these things. SO as a scientist, you need to have a lab… in most cases this is a database or data warehouse. How easy is it to identify, inventory and integrate data in your business? Does you lab contain all the raw materials you need for your experiments?

Once you have your data, you need tools to analyze it, to look for patterns and discover new opportunities or to identify risks. There are many instruments you can use like a scientist uses a microscope. Excel is the most common, but there is an ever-growing number of analytics tools that you can use to glean more intelligence from your business. Some of the tools are very complicated and require a lot of training, other are free and can be learned in a matter of hours. SO as a scientist, you need to use the right tool at the right time to get just the analysis you need. What kind of tools are you using for analysis? What kind of tools are you using for reporting and sharing information? If you are using excel to design Powerpoint Decks to share via email, then I have news for you…. you are headed towards joining the dinosaurs. 🙂

And the final part that to me is the most scientific… applying the tools. There many methodologies out there about decision-making. You are starting to see a lot more college and post-graduate course work in decision-making… this is what my friend Chris is talking about in his comment. Having the materials and the tools are no good if you don’t have tried and tested ways of using them so you can trust the results of your analysis. If you want to get into predictive analytics to try to guess right about sales trends or market direction, you need to have a lot of science on your side.

Most businesses struggle having the analytics in place to fully understand where they have been and where they are now. Getting into a science driven way to predict the future requires data, tools and methodologies that you traditionally only find in big companies that invest in well-trained and/or educated professionals. When you have that then you can really benefit from the science side of analytics.

However, are you just as well versed on the art side of the equation? And what if your business doesn’t have the capability of investing in the same things the big boys use? How can you maximize the art side of things? Let’s talk about that in our next blog!