I recently read a LinkedIn discussion in the Gartner Business Intelligence & Information Management (Xchange) group that was started by analyst Doug Laney, in which he commented that “pre-canned analytics are equally distasteful. Differentiate via metrics/algorithms others don’t have.”
As a provider whose core mission is to help managers and executives derive actionable insights from a sea of data without requiring that they become, or hire, data scientists – I beg to differ with Doug Laney on this point. As when it comes to standing on the shoulders of giants, and using the lessons learned by predecessors to your benefit, I think there’s merit in not starting from scratch. According to Wall Street Journal reporter Katy McLaughlin, even many top gourmet chefs use pre-canned ingredients to create delightful meals. In the article “Gourmet Canned Cuisine”, she states “Here's a secret of high-end cooking: That special taste may have come from Aisle 12. Why top chefs are mixing creamed corn, Gravy Master and supermarket mayo into $75 entrées”.
Just like a quality can of cream corn can contribute to an enjoyable meal, quality canned analytics can contribute value to the bottom line. The trick is making it simple for the user to leverage those analytics to produce results that are meaningful to the organization. (Delicious, if you will, in the restaurant sense.) And since most users aren’t gourmet chefs of analytics they need more of a Betty Crocker approach.
One of the keys we’ve found is to focus the conversations with users on results and not analytics per se. Let’s look at this result set; point out the findings that are right/wrong and then the system adjusts the analytics. It’s the Betty Crocker equivalent of saying “if you want your cake to be more moist, add pudding to the mix”.