In Australia today, January 26, it is “Australia Day”, the day we Aussies, or most of us, think the place was started, conveniently ignoring the thousands of years of habitation before Captain Philip turned up with a bunch of convicts in Botany Bay.
For most of us it is also the start of the working year, the end of any summer holiday, back to the grindstone.
For me, thinking about the coming year over everyone else’s break (we self employed do not get one) I came to the conclusion that 2014 was going to be the year of Analytics, Big Data if you prefer, the year when we finally recognised the now central place analytics hold in our commercial and private lives.
It does not have to be the geek version of analytics. Most of the businesses I work with are small, some tiny, but every one has potential assets hidden amongst the various databases they collect, usually without trying. Riverina Grove, a manufacturer of fine Italian food products in Griffith has 6 years of pretty simple data held on excel that can describe by line item every transaction over that time by a range of parameters. Not hard to collect, as it comes out of their standard accounting software, not hard to analyse, Pivot tables in excel do a great job, certainly not “big data” by most measures, but Gold to an SME, should they choose to use it.
At the other end of the scale, is Netflix, an institution in the US, disrupting totally the movie rental industry, and whilst it has not always got it all right, their use of analytics has driven their recovery from stumbles, and success with customers. This long piece in “The Atlantic” outlining Netflix’s data capability to turn data into useable marketing information is a “must read” for marketers.
Data is the secret weapon of organisations, the challenge is to use it, to approach the data with the view that somewhere in here are answers I need, but to get them out, not only do I need the data skills, but the creativity to find ways to extract and enhance them. Josh Wills has a definition of a data scientist, that new profession that has emerged in the last few years I like, “better at software than any statistician, and better at statistics than any software engineer” that comes from this terrific Slideshare presentation on data science.
As Warren Buffet so famously said, “In God we trust, all others bring data”.
It is up to us all to figure out how to use it, but while you are procrastinating, your competitor is probably ramping up his capability.
Happy Australia Day.