Effective Analytics Starts with the Business First

Also, continuous improvement is messy, retrospectives, and wrong thinking.

  • Using data analytics effectively starts with the business first.  Analytics are a means to an end and the end is business performance.  Ensuring that analytics efforts are guided by the underlying business goals is vital to reaping the expected rewards.  This means that, before embarking on an analytics project, it is vital to define the goals and how the project fits within the overarching business goals.  "Just about everything businesses do can be broken down into component parts."  By breaking your business down into these components, you can focus your analytics efforts on specific parts of the business to optimize them.  Starting with a narrowly focused area allows you to achieve early success with analytics that can be built on in future projects.


  • Managing consumer relationships in the age of Amazon is increasingly reliant on technology.  This article describes how brands can connect with consumers in this changing retail landscape.  As more and more shopping shifts to digital platforms, effectively using those platforms to connect with and sell to customers is becoming an absolute must for direct to consumer brands.  Ensuring that customer interactions bring value wherever they occur keeps them happily engaged with your brand.


  • Using continuous flow and continuous improvement can help avoid the hidden costs of batching.  Batching can happen in many ways and often unintentionally.  Processes that result in batches can cause strains on resources as well as poor experiences for customers.  An example from the article is the discharge process for a hospital, which results in many patients discharged at the same time and puts a strain on the team responsible for transporting patients out of the hospital.  Reworking that process reduced the resource strain on the transportation team and improved patient experiences in what is typically their last interaction with the hospital before they leave.



  • Continuous improvement can be a messy process of discovery.  Embrace it!  The organic process of discovering how to improve and consistently working toward a better state is a fulfilling journey of improvement that can take many different paths.  Continuous improvement can be achieved through multiple frames of reference and finding the solutions to problems can take many different paths.  Incorporating continuous improvement and thoughtful problem solving into your organization's culture helps everyone work together to overcome the issues that will inevitably come up.


  • We wrote recently about retrospectives.  The Annual Retrospectives Report provides more detail about the benefits and challenges of using retrospectives for improvement.  This particular report is focused on software development teams, but the overall conclusions apply much more broadly.  One of the key takeaways, at least for me, is the amount of improvement in team dynamics that comes along with retrospectives.  The retrospective process focuses on how a team works as a whole.  It considers both how the team is working together as a team (team processes) and how the team is doing its work (work processes).  As a result, the team gets better at doing its work by simultaneously improving multiple aspects of the team.


  • Out of the box thinking is out, Wrong Thinking is in!  The idea is similar though, think and approach problems differently.  For example, try to imagine the worst way that you could solve a problem or flip a traditional role on its head.  The article mentions one executive who instructed his intern to "discover things I don't know," effectively flipping the usual roles on their head and allowing the intern to take the lead.  Like in this example, shaking up traditional hierarchies and granting agency to many people in your organization can unlock creative potential that you never knew existed.

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