Email — your friendly neighbourhood Analytics reporting platform (Part 1)
Data analytics, that is, key figures, visualizations and other spoils of war from your immense data have two major hurdles before they are actually worth something. Against popular belief, the first challenge of producing them is the easier part, but to get those analytics to the attention of someone who actually gives a flying horse about it — day after day — is where most of these things end up in what we have come to call the Analytics junkyard.
Mostly we forget that the platforms that help us create these analytics (data pipelining, visualizing etc.) are probably not the best means of disseminating them. The worlds of tableau, power BI and the like are just oversold for the sheer glamor that they offer at the onset.
Let’s look at some of the issues that come up shortly after deploying these assets to people we are supposed to be helping but mostly end up burdening.
Call us because we will not call you
It is important to understand that a manager is not the guy looking at your charts to ‘chart’ his next move. In reality, there is less of chess moves and more of firefighting happening. Those guys have to take practical actions to get things unstuck, play in the grey area, be on the phone mostly and pacify cat fights.
These men and women will not less remember the link, let alone save it as a favorite, let alone fish through tons of needles to find that (hay)stack. On top, entering the passwords, authenticating on their phones and then having to click 5 times after being dumped at the home page is not going to make anyone’s day any better.
Lesson: Dont call us, we’ll call you.
Wake me up, before you go go
All of these platforms that make data visualizations/reports a walk in the park (for the builder) take their sweet time to load up, move from one screen to the other and even worse if you are somewhere deep field without a good connection.
Most of all, they need a live connection to work, especially on your mobile phone: your browser app will only try to refresh if it is switched to another for a number of minutes and for sure will not show anything if the connection is severed for any reason.
Lesson: Play it online and make it available offline
An Orgy of Evidence
[viewing the crime scene of Leo Crow’s murder]
Danny Witwer : I worked homicide before federal. This is what we call an orgy of evidence. You know how many orgies I had as a homicide cop?
Officer Fletcher : How many?
Danny Witwer : None.
[crouches down and looks back up]
Danny Witwer : This was all arranged.
Lesson: Do not make managers hate information and analytics because we made them go blind with it
The ball is in your court — always
Once you have committed yourself and your family to find your way through the labyrinth of color splashes and settled on a link that has reliable intel to back it up as the legitimate heir to the data, it is still your call of how much you want to pin your future on it. You can take a screenshot and send to your boss asking to go left or right on a decision, however at that instance, you become solely responsible for the report and not the platform or the data.
A computer can never be held accountable
Therefore a computer must never make a management decision
Lesson: Blame the messenger — have a messenger to blame (or praise) — make sure you understand how accountability and auditing works
WYSIWYG — What you see is what you get
Related to the one above, most ERP are transactional and follow the financial accounting rules of the financial accounting world — What this means is that any given state of the system is calculated by the credits and debits of money or inventory and the objective is to give the most up to date position of the assets there in. Banking 101.
However, unlike banking, modern data systems frequently require historical data for financial reports, audit checks or calculating performance indicators over a timeline. In all these instances, getting to see what happened 2 years ago requires some sleuthing and acumen of unraveling the past, very delicately.
I once had my boss tell me that he prints every visualization he sees on his screen and files it and will keep it locked under the supervision of a SEAL team, so if someone has a question in the next decade or two, he will have solid evidence backing him up.
Lesson: Make it recordable without burning a CD (only 80s, 90s kids would understand) or cutting down trees.
All of this should go through a manager’s head while he is being presented with the latest and the greatest.
in Part 2, we discuss how emails solve this conundrum.