I hate "business as usual". Maybe it's because I always try to do more than I have time for, maybe it's because repetition bores me. Given my frustrations with repeating well-trodden paths, it was probably inevitable that I'd get involved in analytics.

Problems fascinate me. Not because they cause me grief (which they inevitably do!) but because inside almost every problem is a new way of doing things. Often, problems exist because what we're doing is either wrong or inefficient. Figure out what's wrong and the world changes.

Analytics changes what's possible. When you're drowning in spreadsheets and sick of tracking dependencies, it can often seem like there's no easy way out. Still, someone at Macys woke up one day and thought, "there must be a better way". And today, they're optimizing prices for over 73 million products across more than 800 stores. They're 22 times faster than they used to be. Who wouldn't want that kind of super-charged performance improvement?!

Getting on board is pretty easy; while developing the right skills takes experience and time, finding the right problems to solve is easy. Just look for three things:

  1. What's your biggest problem? Inevitably, most real problems are highly noticeable even if no-one wants to acknowledge them. Are you losing a significant number of customers, even if it's at an equivalent rate to the market average? Are customers complaining that you're unresponsive? Are people unsure how much product to order? Are you not sure of the impact of a policy change? Stop guessing and use analytics to find out the answer.
  2. What do you spend most of your time doing? The best applications of analytics focus on core activities. If it's aligned to your company's competitive differentiation, it's worth looking at.
  3. Who's in charge of it? Analytics needs to be executed to create value. It's no good knowing which customers are going to leave if you don't contact them - execution requires getting everybody on-board. Work out who own the outcome and you're half-way there.

Have a look around - there's problems everywhere. But don't put up with them. Instead, start using analytics to solve them.

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