So why to people do this? Isn’t it a noble intention, after all, to want to see more data? The reason is because complexity creates its own burden, As it turns out, consuming data is a lot like purchasing jam - more isn’t always better. Not only is there a point of diminishing returns in how satisfied we are, but our ability to act is reduced significantly as well.
That was a really interesting role for me, and I’m glad I took it. Not only did I learn a lot of new, useful skills, but more importantly I got to see the gamut of “clients” and how they wanted data. The better ones understood this concept of simplification.
Around the same time, there was an article released by MIT, which put some science to what I was learning. They surveyed a few thousand people at multiple companies and determined that top performers were five times more likely to use analytics than lower performers. No surprise there, but what was more interesting was how the top companies approached data. It wasn’t about budgets or sophistication of software; the lower performers cited development process and managerial issues as a major contributor to blocking progress. What - people are getting in the way?!?
A recent client experience motivated me to write this blog. The team had purchased all the software it needed to bang out good reporting. They had a small army of internal folks and contractors who could wrangle and structure the data as good as anyone. But when the six-month check-in time on a nine-month project came, they discovered that only rudimentary reporting had been developed, and that the internal clients were disappointed to the point of considering pulling the funding for the expensive software they purchased.
Why? Because the IT developers who were in charge of it had treated it as a requirements fulfillment exercise.
One of the key points of the MIT article was a concept they called “start in the middle”. In their findings, they saw a trend in the approach of effective teams where they would simplify the issue to discover the most relevant information to move the needle the most, and then iterate against that until they honed it to a useful state.
It’s a conversation between business people, that happens to use technology as a tool to make it come to life. There is no requirement to gather, because it’s never really known completely what is needed until the discovery begins. It’s not a conversation with executives, it’s with the frontline managers and directors who make the business happen. Once they start becoming successful, peers start taking notice and the path to a data-driven culture organically grows.