Windward Insights

Mission for Analytics: Step One, Define the Mission

Published Apr. 26, 2017
Written by Nick Wilkerson

Funny vintage detective looking through a magnifier

Without data, you’re just another person with an opinion.

–W. Edwards Deming

Even companies with large amounts of data at their disposal have trouble figuring out how to use that data. Why is this so difficult?

Well, for one, not all variables need to be analyzed and reported on and the decision of what to report on depends on the specific mission of the company or organization. Or the mission of a specific project.

The mission can differ by department. Be prepared for competing demands, particularly in large entities. For example, the HR department will have drastically different needs than marketing. A marketing director for a large retailer will be more interested in the strategies and tactics that get people in the door or that click to the e-commerce site or that result in sales conversions. The director of application and network monitoring wants to use other data to try to minimize downtime and outages.

Too often, companies rely on intuition or expert judgement to decide a mission and then the mission has no data to support it. Even sound and logical decisions can be contradicted by hard data and lead to the wrong path. That, in turn, can lead to lost revenue and lost opportunities for cost savings, lost customers, inefficient operations, etc. And nobody wants that. Without data, you’re just another person with an opinion (Deming). With a defined focus, the data gives you an accurate story.

Analytics have helped:

  • Customer Service with analysis of survey data that revealed the factors contributing to overall satisfaction, and enable the organization to prioritize corrective actions based on feedback.
  • Marketing to maximize spending by using analytics to determine which prospective customers are more likely to respond to marketing vs. monetary value.
  • Demand Forecasting to help the company measure demand and plan the resources needed to meet that demand.

Reach out and engage your potential users of the analytics to determine what their data needs are. If you have contending parties, formulate your own focused mission that attempts to find the “average” and then be prepared to adjust and change your analytics and your mission as you go. Remember that you can’t be all things to all people, but you can strive to meet as many needs as feasible up front. You also have to be prepared to have more than one mission and more than one analytics project going on. But each one needs an articulated vision for growth and evolution.

The umbrella question will always be: Why are you analyzing the data? What is the goal? Who the organization is going to serve?

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- Nick Wilkerson

  • Data Analytics
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