3 Signs You’re A Hostage to Analytics

As data and analytics become more important to firms’ strategies, senior leaders are demanding more insights and more depth from their analytics teams (whether internal or 3rd party).  But many are receiving only thin answers to narrow problems.  When they ask clarifying questions, they’re given complex mathematical coefficients or greek formulae.  When they ask for more context, they get blank stares or handwaved dismissals.  They’ve become hostages to their analytics, and are forced to either blindly comply or directly disobey without feeling like they got to the core of the issue.  Here are three indicators that you’ve been taken hostage (or may soon be):

1) You’re told that this ends the debate.
As analytics practitioners, we love getting to the answers from data.  But that’s only half the challenge- putting it into the context and landscape of the business is often much harder because it means we have to balance the art with the science.  One of our clients said it best with “Analytics usually start more discussions than they settle.”

2) Your provider won’t share the model, or it was done completely by one person.
Every mathematical approach uses imperfect data, relies on assumptions, or transforms some of the data, and that’s ok!  But any time a lone wolf is making those decisions without broader input, or an external provider hides behind proprietary algorithms or transformations, you’re in trouble.  If the decision is important enough to warrant the analytics effort, then it needs to be vetted by someone else inside your company.

3) It’s not in English.
Our work usually has two phases: Diverge and Converge.  Diverge is when we test various approaches, explore different datasets, and dive into interesting questions.  But at some point we switch gears to Converge, in which we start tying up those loose ends, and focusing on the core central answers we need.  And the most important part of the Converge step is what we call the last mile of analytics; translating into insights that everyone can use.