Analytics come from huge flows of data with mobile adding a new dimension. More data points, more often, accessible faster. New analytic tools are emerging every day to manage this torrent. It is a truism that we suffer from too much information not too little. Business people struggle to extract real benefits from all this, metrics and goals don’t do the job.
Try a different approach. Learn to listen to your data.
The near future offers only an increase in the growth curve and the global adoption of smartphones will drive up the volume of information. Mobile data will offer greater complexity and subtlety and even more is on the horizon. The Internet of Things will expand the number of connected devices by a factor of 10 or more. Its subset wearables will offer new insights into human activity.
If we don’t understand the benefits today, how will we cope when the quantity doubles or trebles? I want to suggest a simple solution. Listening.
Too Many Targets
Analytics is in a trap of measurement and analysis. There is far too much goal setting and not enough learning. Advisors and managers have understood that it is possible to measure everything. So they try to. Management theory tells us that metrics should link to objectives, “What gets measured gets done” is one of the most dangerous maxims in the whole world of business jargon. If you measure the wrong thing, you set the wrong targets and if you aim at the wrong target you arrive in the wrong place. Even tiny mistakes in how we measure can lead to terrible outcomes.
I once worked with a global services company where management obsessed about profitability. They created a sophisticated formula for measuring the return from each project which used data from a whole range of different sources. The average margin on each job rose from 56% to over 60% in less than two years. However the total profit of the business fell.
How could this be? The team that devised the formula forgot about the impact of utilisation. Only selecting high profit jobs led to a fall in total utilisation. Disciplined and focused management reinforced the error. Result = lost profits.
Many New Voices
Your analytics are not just a chance to measure. Think of it like this; big data allows us to hear the voices of the silent.
You can hear the voice of your customers through their actions and choices. Why rely on surveys and interviews? Traditional NPS and voice of the customer tools give only a limited sample and answer only the questions you are able to ask. Look instead for new tools such as Mallzee, one of the companies I work with. Mallzee offers a personal shopping app for fashion. Users look at items of clothing and if they like an item they can swipe right or left if they dislike it.
Here is a unique data source. Not just items consumers like but we also now know the items they actively dislike. Imagine the margin opportunity. Wouldn’t you like to be a retailer that had this information before ordering stock? Imagine the branding opportunities for a shop that stocked nothing but items its customers love.
Workers voices are also louder. We can see the working practices and behaviours of our teams so we can understand their real world habits. No more workflow studies and much less need for employee satisfaction and attitudes research.
The great thing is we don’t even need to design something to test this idea. Look at an app like workflow.is, it allows anyone to link together the tools they use every day to design their own workflow. Why not allow your team to use something like this? The traditional approach is hours poring over spreadsheets to identify the most efficient way. Let your employees find what works for them and then learn from their behaviour. Use this knowledge to design systems and incentives that make your business better.
Mobile Voices are even Louder
Mobile amplifies voices. From the web we can see what’s happened/happening and we know where and when. The addition of sensor data enriches our understanding even further. Airts is a small startup consultancy which works with big organisations to improve resourcing and scheduling.
Using modern tools they have helped a big local authority improve the performance of their delivery drivers. Before working with Airts the record number of deliveries in a day was 27. 3 weeks. After, this increased to 37 with every driver still finished work and back at the depot by 4pm. The workforce is happy and the council is delivering a 40% better service in less than a month.
IOT will Allow even more Voices to Speak
Wearables will open up whole new sources of data on human behaviour and we will also hear from machines, buildings, even animals and oceans. This does not depend on complexity. Take energy saving for example, your IOT network can now tell you which windows are open, which lights have been left on and where the heating is set too high. Listening to your data, building and taking simple actions will make a big difference. Better use of metrics will grow revenues and save money on customer services, hiring and many other areas.
Hearing the Right Message will be a Powerful Tool
The secret to business benefits from analytics? Don’t set targets and measure results. Listen to the voices. Hear the feedback and learn. Use customer feedback to improve your products. Get employees to tell you how to make your business model smarter. Build a picture of everything that allows you to enhance your brand.