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Analytics Rule No. 1: Know Your Environment
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Re: Getting to know a business
  • 1/22/2013 7:29:06 AM
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@bkbeverly,

Thank you for the input, I've only worked for one company that I wouldn't classify as a "young" company.  This means that the majority of the analyst positions I've seen fall into that 20's and 30's career building phase.  I guess as I age that I'll see that trend shift a little since I'll be associating with an older group.

Simplicity is it's Own Reward
  • 1/22/2013 12:54:53 AM
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@ Bryan  First off, please allow me to congratulate you on 30 years in the industry.  A pioneer you surly are and I always enjoy your sage advice.

And your most current work doesn't let us down. Some great advice from someone who fought this battle for many years.  I don't think we can stress enough how important it is to understand the business you support.   

This might not be as easily said as done, but nonetheless you have to have a comprehensive understanding otherwise can never catch those subtle nuisances that make the difference in most analytic endeavors. 

The TOC of an analytics project really must be conveyed.  Which also brings up the issue of being able to convey this in simple terms.  I really think most analytical information can be condensed into a couple of sentences, with of course the sea of data and models in the background to support the simply stated conclusion.

This is certainly an art as not everyone is able to do this, and if that is the case in a team atmosphere, then someone who is verbally adept should take on this role. 

I have been attending a few more meetings lately and the first thing I have learned from these "exercises in patience" is the best meeting is where we should not have needed a meeting in the first place since it was so short in duration.  Meaning the message was concise and clear; It ultimately cut to the chase.  

This is what IMO every analyst should strive for, to cut to the chase when conveying findings to those who needed to know.  I am certain this practice will be well recieved and even appreciated. 

Re: Time is relative, experience is immeasureable
  • 1/21/2013 7:46:59 PM
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Bryan,

So true! words of wisdom that few of us heed, but will ultimately experience. Your point about being careful of your treatment of co-workers truly resonates with me! It applies to all you come into contact, work or socially. It is easier to be pleasant and considerate than not.  Very rewarding as well!

Re: 30 years and counting
  • 1/21/2013 6:59:19 PM
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PDB,

You nailed it! 

One other aspect of this is managers becoming insecure because rapid innovation in tools and methods can make one feel that the world in which they became successful is like sand moving beneath their feet.  I have seen managers resist technical change because they are afraid that the new stuff (if not explained what it is and how it can advance company goals) will be out of their reach to manage.  This fear becomes more obvious the closer that managers are to retirement.  Young people with new ideas can get discouraged by their bosses - not because the ideas are bad, but it reminds them that they rose up the ladder with certain technical skills that are no longer in vogue (if your star rose as a COBOL/FORTRAN programmer, then discussing HADOOP with a rising star may make you nervous).  Hence, the ideal situation is where an analyst knows something about the manager's path and how the new stuff adds value to both their careers.

Re: Time is relative, experience is immeasureable
  • 1/21/2013 6:32:32 PM
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Rbaz,

 

Thanks!  What I did not mention and did not think about 30 years ago, is that for knowledge workers, maintaining our physical health and cognitive skills, mental acuity, etc. is critical. Of course when you are young, you think that you will live forever.  I have two daughters to put through college, so now I put a lot of thought and intentionality into living healthy, resting my body, figuring out what I need to learn to be marketable and how to keep a good life/work/church balance.

Two things I have learned:

(1) Be careful how you treat the people with whom you work.  Everyone who is a big dog today will be an old dog tomorrow.  Therefore be humble and treat people the way you want to be treated

(2) When you are no longer the sharpest knife in the drawer and cannot 'cut it' any more, learn how to spread butter.  A bend in the road is not the end of the road unless you fail to make the turn.

Re: Getting to know a business
  • 1/21/2013 6:16:39 PM
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SaneIT,

Excellent observation!  An implied assumption of the piece is that one is seeking to be successful in an environment in which you plan to stay a while (these days 2-4 years).  For the analyst who wants to just wants to pick up exposure to a wide variety of skills or is job hopping while 'trying to figure it out', then knowing the environment will be a shallow experience.  I get a big laugh when I read resumes and people list 20 different technical products in which they have 'expertise', when what they mean is that they worked at companies in which they had 'exposure'.  Yes - for the person who wants to be a consultant, then knowing the environment means going in, learning something fast, integrating it with what you know, buildng a killer application or two, getting an 'on the spot' award, updating the resume and then on to the next thing.

One way of getting people to stick around is to pay for their training, but have them commit one year of employment for each class taken or else they have to pay back the cost of the training.  On the flip side, if you work for a company where turn-over has accelerated in the last 20 years, then the company may have to restructure itself to function with the understanding that application/institutional expertise is less likely to stay these days.  Documentation becomes crital in high-turnover areas.  Making sure that you have strong non-compete clauses or copyright laws helps to retain the contribution of the short-timers when you cannot keep them.

As I think about your question, I realize that companies with employees from their 60's to their 20's have different ideas of of longevity at any one company.   Those of us on the upper end of the age scale are past career building in 2013 and may put an stronger emphasis on the points mentioned here.  But the 20-somethings (the generation of shorter attention spans) may need incentives (i.e., paying for grad school, technical mentoring program, teleworking, etc.).  In short, the young, talented and marketable may have to be coaxed into staying until they can see the value of hanging around.  On the other hand, companies have to figure out hown to have sustainable success with human resources that may only be around 3 to 5 years.

I see the same patterns happen in churches.  You have the long-time aging members who are trying to recruit young familes, but the young families are more transient than 50 years ago.  As soon as they learn how things are done they leave the communities or have other competing interests that reduce their involvment in church activities. What the churches are having to accept is that the old days are gone and that the churches must find ways of functioning effectively with smaller segments of people's time.

In like manner, just off the cuff, I would say that you have to assess organizational needs, the turn-over rates by age groups, incentivize the young people to stay for 5 years, but then construct a strategic plan that will allow a company to sustain its business with short-term employees.  I think the day of having a single lifetime job, church, doctor, community, barber, etc is over.  You raised an excellent point - there are generational differences on how long people are expected to be connected to any specific community. That's my best shot!

Re: Time is relative, experience is immeasureable
  • 1/18/2013 10:03:12 PM
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Does it require demonstration of roi?

Re: Time is relative, experience is immeasureable
  • 1/18/2013 11:53:19 AM
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Beth,

In a reflection of your statement, that insular approach can be why analytics gets siloed very easily.  So much of analytics gets championed from the analyst - though Bryan rightly points out the essential role of an executive or management champion - but if an analyst has thebunker mentality, then how will analytics reveal better insights and better overall support?

Getting to know a business
  • 1/18/2013 7:55:56 AM
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@bkbeverly,


I was wondering do you have any tips on how to reach that first goal?  I see many analysts come and go and honestly in my opinion it tends to be right about the time that they really understand that business that they disappear.  Maybe that's not all that common and I just tend to work for companies that scare analysts but I've seen the same thing happen over and over.

Re: 30 years and counting
  • 1/18/2013 2:18:38 AM
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These are points we should all remember Bryan

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