When most people think of ML, they imagine a team of data scientists, high overhead costs for computer hardware and timelines that stretch into quarters or a year before seeing results. But today the market is filled with automation tools and cloud-based computing power. ML, AI, and Big Data are available more than ever. It is now easier for medium to large-size businesses to start using and applying these advancements in business intelligence technology to grow and improve their business.
John Tardy is a principal consultant at Starr & Associates and leads the Business Intelligence and Data Analytics practice area. He has a BS in Electrical Engineering and an MS in Biomedical Engineering from Rutgers University and an MBA in Management of Technology from Georgia Tech. He has worked with start-ups and served in senior leadership roles with some of the most recognized brands in the country. He pairs a depth of technical expertise with business savvy to deliver practical and impactful solutions for his clients.
One of the things I enjoy about our work in analytics is the variety of business problems we solve. While the specifics of the problem vary, our overall objective is always to derive value from the data. Putting the client’s needs first means that we adjust our approach to best fit the situation rather than fixate on a specific tool or pre-selected solution. This variety makes the work exciting, but it also creates challenges in staffing the appropriate skills. Over the years, I have come to refer to our solution to this challenge with the phrase “Analytics is a team sport.”
Better data management produces better data analysis. Using a tool designed to extract, transform and load (ETL) data seamlessly transfers data into your data warehouse. It simplifies the process of transferring large volumes of data by batching them.
Depending upon which pundits you may listen to, there has been significant discussion around an impending economic downturn. Regardless as to whether you believe this to be the case, we can all agree that the cyclic nature of the global economy guarantees that we will be faced with tough economic conditions at some point within our working years. A significant risk of economic downturn alone is enough to change consumer behaviors, which could then impact our broader business ecosystem. This then will impact how organizations communicate with and meet the needs of their respective customers.
It’s difficult enough for companies to stand out in performance and product during times of economic expansion. Those that have figured out how to navigate the competitive landscape well enough to be considered an “established brand” often struggle to maintain that relevance in favorable economic environments. The task becomes many-fold more difficult as the macroeconomic conditions of large markets (global, national, or regional) deteriorate toward stagnation or full-blown contraction. Corporate managers will be challenged to focus their decision making around the attributes that have created success for their respective organizations from inception and to ensure that their brands continue to resonate with their targeted customer base, while continuing to aggressively compete for additional market share.
The last two major US economic downturns: the late 1970s and more recently the Great Recession of 2008 – 2012 provided an opportunity to observe the successful strategies and tactics of well-managed brands that not only survived the downturn but in some instances thrived. Brands like ITT, Lehman Brothers, and General Motors can be counted among the casualties of consumer economic hardship from both periods. While on the other hand, companies like Microsoft, Southwest Airlines and Amazon saw unparalleled growth and expansion. What are the attributes that separated the latter group of brands from the former? What decisions, advantages, commonalities, and approaches were used to expand in such tough economic conditions?
While there are several well-thought-out strategies that I could point to, my primary focus is to highlight key principles that are easily relatable to your particular enterprise (no matter what it may be). I, by no means, want to oversimplify what it takes to navigate the “choppy waters” of recessions, depressions and/or market contractions but in an attempt not to “boil the ocean” it is critical to hone in on what appears to be most important. Below are the four focal principles:
Accept the hand you’ve been dealt!
Singular Focus, Duality of Action
Re-Invest in Specific Pockets of Growth
Strengthen the Meritocracy
My subsequent four blogs will focus on each respective point above. The thought is to expound upon how each tenet can help your organization thrive in times of turbulence. Each will be explored in a non-prescriptive way, to shed light on its particular impact on your likelihood of continued success.
Your business processes determine how efficiently your employees create the company’s services or products. They drive the milestones in your business plan, so you reach your goals. Periodically reviewing and revamping your business processes can result in cost savings and efficiency improvements.
Understanding Predictive Analytics and Predictive Understanding
The term predictive analytics refers to the analysis of existing data to create forecasts that when properly applied, help avoid future problems. While kaizen helps spot problems live on the manufacturing floor, using predictive understanding methods provides an opportunity to:
Business forecasts only do so much. They cannot tell you the exact times of day you’ll likely serve the most customers. They merely let you know the average number of customers per day you’ll serve and an average of how frequently. A simulation, however, can replicate the real-world event in a computer model or, in some cases, a live-action role-play.
Field service management has always been challenging, as you rarely know exactly what’s happening when your personnel are on the job and interacting with customers. This can introduce a great deal of variability in service levels, which doesn’t always lead to great customer experience. From system inputs to scheduling, see how the structure of Six Sigma or lean manufacturing can be leveraged to provide efficiencies and improve service for field staff.
You’ve spent weeks or perhaps even months going through the strategic planning process, often burning through hundreds of hours of staff time to craft ideal strategies. Yet, within only a few months you find that plans are beginning to morph and slowly shift direction away from your hard-won strategies. Without clear ownership of the project, executive buy-in and consistent communication, it’s difficult to drive for successful implementation of your strategies.