Imagine you are standing on the corner of a very busy intersection in the middle of downtown New York City. It's the peak of rush hour and you need to get across the street in a hurry. And, oh yeah, you're blindfolded.
This was one of the various scenarios discussed by senior managers at the October 20th session of the SAS Power Series in Atlanta. Participants in the session interacted with each other and thought leader Thornton May to discuss the challenges and benefits of business analytics. The event, which used a unique format where the attendees actually developed the content, was the final SAS Power Series for 2011. Similar events have been held in Minneapolis, Chicago, San Jose and New York.
I had the pleasure of attending all of these sessions to discuss research SAS sponsored, conducted by Bloomberg Businessweek, on business analytics. There were some similar themes across the cities. Companies are facing challenges in developing an analytics culture due to:
- Data management issues.
- Inability to find the right analytical talent.
- Getting executives on board.
- Translating the results of analytics into actionable insights.
But each city contributed its unique perspective, and the Atlanta group certainly made its mark, including holding the record for being the crowd that stayed the longest afterwards to continue their discussions.
So back to busy interaction and the tie to analytics. The point being made was that businesses are often faced with decisions they must make quickly. The blindfold represents a state of complete uncertainty. The question is, what information do you need to have in order to get across the street safely--to make a decision that will have a positive outcome.
In this scenario, the participants discussed the various types of inputs one could use to help get across the street. There's no lack of information; we know things like the color of the cars, the makes and models, how many passengers, etc. But what we really need to know is when it will be safe to step off the curb and make it across the street.
Such is the case with analytics, the group proposed. We need to be able to cut through all the irrelevant information and get to what is needed, accurately and in a timely fashion. We need to be able to predict what is going to happen when.
The SAS Power Series was a refreshing break from typical vendor events, and the participants I spoke with gave it very favorable reviews. We all know it's important to listen to our customers. What was so effective about the Power Series was that the customers listened to each other, and in the process, we all came away with more insight.