Q20: So in conclusion can you explain a little more about your own method for using data to drive better decision making?

I have always been into data. When I was a kid I used to memorize baseball statistics on the backs of baseball cards. It was not uncommon for me to spend a whole weekend constructing fantasy teams and playing what if games between great teams of the past using my favorite players.

Besides sports statistics, another love of mine as a kid was history. Understanding concepts that caused things to happen. Wanting to know what caused wars and lead to significant changes in behavior. And history is chalk full of statistics. Loads of data to help understand what happened and most importantly shed some light on why it happened.

So those two experiences really taught me about how much fun data can be. When I started my first real job out of college, I started using MS Excel. I quickly became the expert in the office and things just kinda spun out from there.

I took a few Excel classes early on, but most of what I have learned has been either side by side with an expert of self-taught. When I started at Wells Fargo, the data guy thing followed me.

One of my first projects was building a sales tracking sheet for each team. Flash forward 15 years and I was doing the same thing, but with much more awesome tools and a lake full of data.

SO what does that tell you about my philosophy about analytics? Its comes from passion and curiosity and my expertise is mostly self-taught. To teach people to be a good analyst you have to first build confidence and generate empowerment. That with the right tools, the right data and the right state of mind, you can solve any data problem.

At this point in my career, besides the passion and the drive, I’ve got 25 years of data gathering, analyzing and sharing under my belt. I can find data on just about anything, knowing where to start looking.

I have a 1,000 bookmarks saved and organized and Im always adding to it. I also as much as possible notate my sources to keep breadcrumbs close at hand to trace back how I got to where I am at. I read a ridiculous amount. Books, blogs, articles, whatever I can that helps me add to my body of knowledge and most importantly gives me access to new places to find data.

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To me the single biggest key to success in analytics is just that… knowing where to look for it. The quicker you identify the data, the less time you have to spend inventorying it and the most time you can spend integrating it.

A lot of people might expect me to say use this application with this model of this method to get these results. That’s to specific. I can list out some awesome tools, but if they aren’t going to be employed in every company then what’s the point.

If you are surrounded by people who know where to find data, you are in a good place. If you are the only one who is going out and finding it, then you are in a lonely place. Making data-driven decision is only really possible if your business culture is at a point where it values these types of decisions.

In conclusion, you have to have curious people, who are empowered to find data, that management will use to make decisions. Focusing on data organization for speed and diversity helps. Spending a lot of time on visualizing your data so it tells a story that drives decision making helps. This is how I do it.

I find data, I use cool tools to analyze it faster and I add awesome visualizations to make it more powerful.

That’s how I empower people to be analysts, how I teach companies to have better analytics and finally and most importantly, how I do analytics.

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Q19: How would you describe your approach to teaching analytics?

 

That’s a great question. I have both a simple answer and a more complex one.

The simple answer is my approach to teaching analytics is all about empowerment.

The keys to being a good analyst are most likely already in you. You just need to find ways to unlock, upgrade and unleash your curiosity and focus it towards making more data-driven decisions.

Learning how to use data across a business to improve things is something everyone can benefit from. So that is where I start.

A more complex answer is that I develop each training to fit the needs of a particular audience. Every organization approaches analytics differently so its nearly impossible to use a single way to talk about analytics. In addition, each person in an organization has different backgrounds and different needs, so a one solution fits all approach doesn’t work.

This open-minded and flexible approach to the subject matter is the same way I approach any challenge. Assess the need, develop a relevant solution, apply the solution and refine and adapt as need be.

Honestly, my approach is fairly unique because I take my formal education as a teacher, mix it with my 15 years of practical experience and offer a training solution that is both engaging and enchanting.

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So what does that all mean when it comes to actually being on the stage or in front of a classroom?

I have found the following things to be true when it come to talking about analytics:

  • Knowing the audience. What do they need to get from where they are to where they want to be.
  • Asking participants questions directly. Breaking into small group exercises to see the interactions. Having lots of questions in my slides.
  • Real World Exercises. I change the exercise we do based on the make-up of the group. It is much more impactful to solve problems that they can relate too.
  • Too Much Content. Going against conventional wisdom, I pack a lot in. I am not trying to make sure everyone can memorize my slides. I am trying to bring out their curiosity and let them take way what they need to bring the curiosity back to the office with them.
  • Lots of Visuals. Even when I pack a slide with text, I tie it to an image that sticks. People remember the image, then the content will come back to them.
  • Speak with Passion. Another change from conventional wisdom. I talk fast. I jump from topic to topic a lot. I move around the room. Its all because Im speaking with passion. Its contagious and keeps things moving at a fast pace.
  • New Content. I am always tweaking things. My presentations are never exactly the same, because every day there is something new to talk about.

So there you go. Some of why and how I have developed my approach to teaching analytics. I’m always looking for disciples if you want to learn from a man crazy about analytics.