Why Analytics Projects Fail: #2 – Lack of Vision

Lack of vision often accompanies lack of focus when good analytics projects come up short or even fail.

The end product produced by the hard work being put into the analytics project has to be championed from top down. If the top dog is not talking about your project and pushing the merits of its implementation, they people will fight getting on board. Their focus will go astray.

Lack of vision is most often caused by a rush to implement a new analytics tool or a need to quickly upgrade reporting. A good analytics solution needs clearly thought out goals and buy in from all stakeholders.

Vision comes from being on the same page. A good project manager can control the vision message and repeat it like a broken record at every project message. An analyst gifted with good communication skills can keep sharing the vision to remind everyone of the benefits at the end of the project. It takes people dedicated to the project to keep it moving.

Vision can be handled like a marketing campaign. A catchy project name, an engaging tagline, a central theme accompanying communications and updates can all keep people focused on the end goal.

If your project is floundering because of lack of vision, then you need to channel your inner cheerleader. It often takes an analytics champion to produce the a positive outcome. And if you are reading this blog, that champion is probably you.

Nothing helps get a vision across better than good visuals… what does the end state look like for everyone involved. Find ways to motivate them with posters, with slogans, with dashboards, with free food. Just keep reminding them where we are going and how awesome it will be when we get there.

 

Lack of vision can also be an issue when an analytics projects are not well planned out. Maybe the scope was too narrow or too broad or perhaps the technology we are using is obsolete.

Vision is a glimpse of what the future may look like. If I can’t conceptualize why we are doing what we are doing for this project, then we can’t very well share the vision we are supposed to be seeing.

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My final thought on dealing with lack of vision, is that no one will be better at fixing this then you. As a data person, you have to be bold in your use of data to push the vision and you have to be brave in taking the lead on sharing the vision as much as possible.

Analytics should be accessible across your organization.  If you are in a situation where your analytics efforts are being stymied by lack of vision, connect with me and I’ll help you get things straightened out.

Analytics Culture – The key to using analytics in a business is like a secret sauce that fuels Data-Driven Decison-Making. It is a unique combination of analytics talent, technology and technique that are brought together to enrich and empower an organization. A successful analytics culture is not easy to create, but DMAIPH can show you how. Contact DMAIPH now at analytics@dmaiph.com or connect with me directly so we can build a strategic plan to turn your company into analytics driven success story.

Turning Data Owners Into Data Resources

One of the biggest challenges I hear about when I do public trainings is how to get people who are stingy with their data to share it.

My answer is always the same… buy them a doughnut.

Seriously, when I reflect back to what made me a great analyst when I was with Wells Fargo, one of the biggest reason was I made sure all the data guys liked me.

Just about every company has someone who likes to keep their data close. Sometimes it is a result of security risks. But most of the time it is because they just don’t like to share. It is also possible they just don’t like someone on your team. Whatever the reason, you have to get them to lower the gate and let you in to play with their data.

From my perspective, I generally see a few types of data gate keepers who have very different reasons to keeping you out of their data playground.

  1. They are afraid to share the data, because they know the data is not 100% trustworthy.
  2. They are afraid to share the data, because they worry you will use the data to do things they can’t.
  3. They are afraid to share the data, because they had a bad experience with you or someone like you.
  4. They are afraid to share the data, because you play for a different team.
  5. They are afraid to share the data, because you won’t need them anymore.
  6. They can’t share the data because it’s a security risk.

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In every case, even the last, engagement is the key. Share with them why you need the data, demonstrate how much more awesome your analysis and reporting will be if you can include their data.

One of the advantages I have enjoyed in my career is that I really get along with people. I make an effort to be likeable and trustworthy. To be a great analyst, you will need to be likeable and trustworthy too.

And I kid you not, buying them a doughnut and dropping it off at their cube works more often than you might imagine.

The key to using analytics in a business is like a secret sauce. It is a unique combination of analytics talent, technology and technique that are brought together to enrich and empower an organization. A successful analytics culture is not easy to create, but DMAIPH can show you how. Contact DMAIPH now at analytics@dmaiph.com or connect with me directly so we can build a strategic plan to turn your company into analytics driven success story.

When Your KPIs Aren’t Really KPIs

One question I get asked a lot is what should someone do when they know the data they are reporting and/or using in their analysis is not the best data to available?

No matter what part of the business you work in, the first thing to do is to define the current Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) being used in decision-making.  Often right off the bat, some of the KPIs being reported aren’t even being used.

You can do a simple survey, asking end users to rank in order of importance the KPIs they get. Also ask if the ones at the bottom are even useful or should they be eliminated if no one is using them.

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At the same time you should be working on understanding what computations go into each KPI. Often we just do simple counts, total and averages that mask more important data. On the flip side, we tend to over complicate things with extravagant weighing and scoring. Either way, we need to make sure we know exactly what is being reported and how does the final data point come to its end state.

The next step is to look at the data architecture to make sure there is nothing happening upstream that might impact the data we are using in the KPIs. Before making changes to the KPIs we want to have the full view of what happens before the data gets to the end user.

Now we are at the point where we can start experimenting. What happens when we swap out data points? Or if we change a variable in a calculation? Or we pull the data from a different source? The questions are endless. Pick a few, make some changes in a test environment and start sharing the updated KPI data. See if it has more value with the end users.

Again, this shouldn’t be hard. But of course in many organizations a lot of consequences can result from a simple change to just one KPI. Spreadsheets may have to be reformatted, review processes may have to be updated, dashboards may have to be redesigned. But in the end, what is more important… making decisions with crappy data or setting a standard to let the reporting process evolve as the business evolves?

This come back to my point earlier, changing KPIs is as much sales as it is analysis… that you have to be ready to share a story, back it up with data, and really influence the minds of senior management that updating the KPIs makes good business sense.

If you are at a point where you are trying to figure out what KPIs aren’t working anymore or you need help is building a business case to change some KPIs, let me know. I’m here to help.

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General Analytics – Analytics is the application of using data and analysis to discover patterns in data. DMAIPH specializes in empowering and enabling leaders, managers, professionals and students with a mastery of analytics fundamentals. To this end we have parterned with Ariva Events Management/Ariva Academy to offer a wide range of analytics themed trainings across the Philippines. Contact DMAIPH now at analytics@dmaiph.com or connect with me directly to find out what we can do to help you acquire the analytics mastery you and your organization need to be successful in today’s data-driven global marketplace.

Q14: What is data visualization and how does it help drive better decision-making?

Most of us are well aware that people generally learn best visually. A simple pie chat can turn a 1,000 row excel spreadsheet from a headache inducing overload of data into something one is able to make decisions on in a few seconds.

Of all the things that have made me a successful analyst, one of my greatest skills is knowing which visual to use in my presentations and reporting.

To demonstrate how data visualization can drive better decision-making, I will borrow from analytics guru Bernard Marr’s 7 Key Ingredients for Knock-out Data Visualizations.

Even the best analytics will amount to nothing if you don’t report the results properly to the right people in the right way. Make sure you report the results effectively by following these 7 steps:

  1. Identify your target audience. What do they need to know and want to know? And what will they do with the information?
  2. Customize the data visualization. Be prepared to customize your data visualization to meet the specific requirements of each decision maker.
  3. Use Clear Titles and Labels. Don’t be cryptic or clever. Just explain what the graphic does. This helps to immediately put the visualization into context.
  4. Link the data visualization to your strategy. As a result, they are much more likely to engage and use the information wisely.
  5. Choose your graphics carefully. Use whatever type of graphic best conveys the story as simply and succinctly as possible.
  6. Use headings to make the important points stand out. This allows the reader to scan the document and get the crux of the story very quickly.
  7. Add a short narrative where appropriate. Narrative helps to explain the data in words and adds depth to the story while contextualizing the graphics.

So there you have it. Data Visualizations allow the analyst to inform and empower the audience of the report/presentation to use the data to make good decisions.

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It sounds easy, but a lot of people really struggle with this concept. Most presentations I see are either too wordy or include visuals the audience can’t see easily. Most reports are formatted in a way that may look good, but have little functionality.

Nothing prohibits good analysis like an excel spreadsheet full of data but not formatted in a way that allows a pivot table to be built.

Likewise a lot of reports are just summaries, with the original data hidden or absent. When you take away the power of an end user to do their own analysis, you really diminish the value of what you are doing.

So besides everything that Bernard said above, I would add make sure you provide the ability for your audience to use and analyze your data.

If you are having challenges with coming up with engaging and actionable data visualizations, let me know. I can definitely help.

Breaking Bad Data Habits

It’s a common mistake to get creative with your data in excel to such an extent that its next to impossible to use that data effectively.

The concept of keep it simple stupid is hard to follow as once a person has some data they tend to spend far more time formatting and decorating it then they do analyzing it. Its just human nature.

However when we don’t keep data in clean and easy to access formats, we pretty much make that data useless to anyone else who really wants to play with it.

The best and really only way to keep data useful is to have it in a simple column with 1 header row format. From that we can use numerous tools to both format and analyze the data like pivot tables and Tableau.

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Business Intelligence Buzzwords = Nosebleed

http://www.analyticbridge.com/profiles/blogs/kill-the-buzzwords-the-real-meaning-behind-popular-bi-terms

In the Philippines, “Nosebleed” is the common response for having to deal with a challenging problem, whether it be speaking a lot of English or trying to understand a complicated business problem.

When I read the attached article, it made me think of the number of times I get the Nosebleed response when I talk about analytics terminology.

In any talk I give on analytics, I make sure to always start with a definition and then build up a glossary of terms and definitions to make sure everyone is on the same page. I also like to show the audience that things aren’t usually as difficult as they seem, they just need to get past the nosebleed inducing buzzwords.

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Big Data is kinda scary because it sounds complicated and expensive.

Data Visualization is very broad and difficult to visualize if you aren’t familiar with the concept.

Data Scientist sounds like someone who doesn’t even exist in the Philippines yet.

But when you take a minute to step back and see that big data just means the data universe in your business that you are already using every day, that data visualization is charts and maps and graphs, and that a data scientist is really just the data guy you already have, then its not so nosebleed inducing.

Once you have the baseline to start from then you can go back and show the complexity of each buzzword without losing the audience.

If you or your business is suffering from nosebleed because the buzzwords in your analytics solutions sound too expensive and too complicated, then give me a shout out. I can help simplify it for you.

Being A Great Analyst > Attribute #2: Visualize Your Data

Most people learn by seeing something… that’s definitely true when it comes to using data. They not only learn more, but data visualization also a quicker sharing of information and also enhances communication.

Here’s an example. My management team was discussing how to enhance our coaching efforts with the team and since each of my direct reports has a different area of responsibility; production, quality and schedule adherence, they were having trouble agreeing on which analysts needed the most coaching. They each produced reports that were stand alone documents that would be shared via email or dropbox.

So I suggested we build a simple business dashboard. A business dashboard looks something like this:

It’s a simple collection of visuals built on top of a data file.

I created a simple Google docs spreadsheet and shared it. Each of the key performance indicators used to evaluate employee success was given a column and I put each employee a row. I then had each of my directs input the relevant data points and quickly we had a rudimentary business dashboard and I now I have a much more in synch management team.

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Simple analytics solutions like this are at the fingertips of any business. You just need to know when, where, and how best to implement them. Something so simple as a place to share data is so often overlooked by even the most successful businesses.

Analytics Culture – The key to using analytics in a business is like a secret sauce. It is a unique combination of analytics talent, technology and technique that are brought together to enrich and empower an organization. A successful analytics culture is not easy to create, but DMAIPH can show you how. Contact DMAIPH now at analytics@dmaiph.com or connect with me directly so we can build a strategic plan to turn your company into analytics driven success story.

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.

Lesson 10 – February 2013 – The Future is Bright

What Analytics Can Do!

Mandaluyong City, Metro Manila, Philippines
In February, for the first time in ten months I made a profit. You hear that the typical new business takes a year or more to make a profit. I had been a very flexible and nimble business leader and let my business evolve as opportunities came up. It seemed like all the hard work, sacrifice and money spent has been worth it. To take a quote from my all time favorite book, The Tale of Two Cities, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of time.” It was all a matter of perspective.

I was encouraged by several things. We had our most successful training event in February making a nice profit on my first public training geared towards young professionals and entrepreneurs. We also turned a profit with my first training focused on recruitment analytics, which was my first attempt to do something besides the basic analytics intro class. We had a couple of lucrative consulting gigs in the works. I was set for several media appearances and there was a lot of buzz building on our social media sites. I had a couple of speaking engagements lined up as schools to help set up more trainings down the road. The people I had hired earlier started to get into the swing of things and for the first time I thought we had enough people to fine tune our story and tell it to the world. Basically I was executing every aspect of the business plan I had set forth back in November.

As an analyst I felt pretty good about the ROI on our trainings, we had young and hungry staff willing to work for cheap to get the experience, my revenue was diversified and we were meeting our training head count expectations. I took on another trainee to work with a client’s marketing efforts and I was doing all this without the overhead of an office. We started getting into infographics. A fairly new trend in analytics and data visualization. I found a free info graphics tool and went crazy! A picture is worth a thousand words and a good infogrpahic is worth a thousand rows of data! Hehe!

Analytics Tool > Info Graphics > http://www.infographicsarchive.com/create-infographics-and-data-visualization/

Analytics Concept > Data Visualization > http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Data_visualization

YouTube Resource > http://www.youtube.com/user/Piktochart

My Analytics Story – My passion is solving problems by bringing together the best talent, cutting edge technology and tried and true methodologies. DMAIPH is all about empowering people towards better Decision-Making through the use Analytics and business Intelligence. This is what I do best. Contact DMAIPH now at analytics@dmaiph.com or connect with me directly for a free consultation about getting more analytics into your career and your business.