My name is Donn, and you’ll find me working at the intersection of business and information technology, constantly looking for ways to apply IT to business and life to make things better.
I’m a big fan of data analysis and its subsequent communication. It always gives me a thrill extracting meaning out of data through analysis, and figuring out the best way to present the findings for maximum impact!
I’ve written about shipping before: the act of delivering a product; an article; a report; a piece of art. You can have the best ideas in the world, but if you don’t ship, they’re worth as much a ton of gold at the bottom of a rubbish heap.
“We don’t know if the data’s 100% right – are you sure we should publish it? What if they question us? What if we have to change something later? Shouldn’t we validate some more till we’re completely sure?”
Yes, you should – if you had all the time in the world.
But we don’t.
We have done our homework; we know the assumptions; we know there are issues with the data but these are not show-stoppers. For our purposes, 90% is good enough. If we waited till we were 100% before shipping, nothing would be shipped.
Caught this magnificent optical illusion on kottke.org today. I’d say that is definitely this is worth a minute or two of your time.
Was in my “data” frame of mind when I watched this, and couldn’t help thinking that this is exactly how data works: control the content, control the angle (i.e. perception), and you can make a square block look like a cylinder.
Let me admit right off the bat that the post today contains less original thought of mine and more myself reminding my future self on a fact I always intuitively knew about but never saw documented anywhere: that in a sales funnel, an increase of in an earlier stage of the funnel quite naturally lends itself to lower sales conversion rates in the following stage(s).
From the book The Perfect Salesforce by Derek Gatehouse (a great book on building and managing a sales team, and that I thoroughly enjoyed, by the way – read my full review on goodreads.com):
A bigger machine will have more parts to fix and more leaks to patch. You cannot fight the natural byproduct of growing larger…
And if your closing ratio happens to drop from 25 percent to 15 percent over a five-year period, you should be okay with it: because it is an inevitable part of being bigger and, more relevant, given the choice, you would rather close 15 percent of five thousand prospects visited than 25 percent of one thousand prospects!
It is also interesting to note that Gatehouse doesn’t believe in “fixing” the lower sales conversion rates, saying that the top sales-centric companies focus on the sales instead of “the ones that get away”. This may sound slightly controversial, but not so much if you understand that Gatehouse very much believes in playing to your strengths and not shoring up your weaknesses.
They took our data, ran it through their software, and they got the answers that eluded us for so long.
I was told they were a big consulting company, which meant they probably had great, restrictively expensive software that could do the job. That’s why.
But I don’t buy that argument.
Great software needn’t be expensive.
I’ve lived and breathed great open-source, free technologies growing up. Linux; Apache; PHP; MySQL; WordPress; Python; R.
Are any of these free technologies inferior to their paid counterparts? In development (including data science) work, I don’t think so.
So why were they “successful”? Why could they come up with an answer we couldn’t?
My guess: they were a consulting company with less vested interest.
They came up with an answer. But would it have been better than the one we would have come up with if we were in their shoes? I don’t know.
As a consultant I’d have been much more liberal with my analyses. No matter how badly I mess up, the worst that would happen would be that my company would lose a contract. And chances are good I could push the blame to the data that was provided, or having been provided the wrong context, or information that was withheld.
When you’re part of the company, you have far more vested interest. Not just in your job, but your network, both social and professional. Consequences extend far beyond they would if you were an external consultant working on “just another project”. I’d be far more meticulous ensuring everything was covered and analyses properly done.