Simply directing analytics

How many millions of dollars are you willing to spend solving the wrong problem? Or worse, finding a problem for the awesome, mind blowing, technically brilliant business analytics solution you’re building to transform your company into a digital enterprise?

Zero millions is a good answer. It’s a bad way to try and achieve a digital transformation, and like most entrepreneurial style endevours it will probably fail (which is fine, if you’re an entrepreneur and it’s your money).

So how do you work out the appropriate way to approach this ‘digital reinvention’ thing that is all the hype these days. There are many technology solutions and capabilities you can leverage, with everything from niche software applications through to cloud based data analytics and cognitive computing platforms that seem infinitely scalable. Technology limitations are not likely to be an issue for most organisations and use cases.

Where to start then? In the words of Stephen R Covey, begin with the end in mind. Easy as that. It’s a whole lot harder than that, but that’s where you begin. Of course, starting there requires something: knowing what the end is. If you can work that out, you’re off to a great start.

Fortunately there’s a few things you can do to work that out, and that’s easy to. All you need to know is:

  • What is the right question to ask?

That’s not so easy to work out though, you say? Wrong. There’s not that many questions to ask, that truly matter, to get you started. In fact, I use just 2 questions.

Knowing the answer to one or both of these questions enables you to focus your analytics and/or transformation efforts. They allow you to work out which data and technique/s will be of value to you, and which you can confidently save away out of sight for another day.

So the magic questions are:

  1. What is the problem to be solved?
  2. What is the strategic business objective being pursued?

Hold on… that’s just common sense first year business school problem solving technique and strategy 101 stuff that applies to just about anything. Yes. It is. If you have a problem to solve use question one, and question two where it’s a strategic objective to achieve (and sometimes both apply!).

If you’re pursuing a ‘digital reinvention’ that’s not started from (or at least able to easily retrofit to) one or both of these questions, it’s a good chance you’re wasting money building a solution you’ll then need to find a problem for. If that happens, I truly hope you do find a problem before too long; or better still you stop what you’re doing, take a step back from the detail and reassess where it all fits in the big picture.

So the right question to ask is not hard to identify. However, that’s where my good news about how easy it is ends. Fully and properly answering the questions is not often easy, not by any measure and there are nuances and pitfalls to be wary of when doing so. Which is why people spend years learning and gaining experience on how to answer them. The point is though, they are a good place to start, asking them gets you starting in the right direction; and the importance of that should not be underestimated.

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You can see how he solves his problems. You can also see what’s wrong. Young children, especially, have enormous creativity, and whatever’s in them rises to the surface in free play.

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