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3 Tips for Sustaining Your Analytical Software
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Re: Some cautions
  • 4/14/2013 2:50:35 AM
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@Noreen – I think that the private sector focuses on matching the software with their operational requirements. Hence there is high probability that they evaluate the use of the software time to time and switch to a better product if they feel that product is not worth using anymore.

Re: Some cautions
  • 4/14/2013 2:42:01 AM
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@Phoenix- Almost all software in the market has its completive products in the market, so businesses always have a choice before they make their decision to buy particular software. Some time back we didn't have a choice it was only few products in the market. 

Re: You old crank...
  • 4/9/2013 11:24:27 PM
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Hi Beth,

 

Great questions Beth - unfortunately I've experenced both scenarios. I can say without hesitating that the manager who rose to the top being an expert with an analytics package can be dangerous if they are 15 years or less from retirement and is insecure. This type of person has the path to retirement in view and will be darned if the young hot shots will change how things are done.  This often leads to bewilderment and discouragement; I often (not being a hot shot - more of a warm shot) remember wondering why seasoned managers demanded that change would not happen or not happen quickly. Then one day I became one of those 50-something folks and understood (not approve but understood).  After a certain point in your career, you go from being the Big Dog to the Old Dog.  If you have invested in professonal development, you can embrace new technologies and encourage others to do the same.  But if you took your success for granted, then one day realize that your knowledge, skills, abilities and 'cool-factor' are erroding.  This type of person can cause good people to seek employment elsewhere.  Hence the manager who did not grow and has become insecure can become a road block to technological progress and cause unnecessary turnover in staffing.  The caveat is that when we are young, we swear that we will not do that to others - however, if we do not grow professionally, we will perpetuate this cultural process. 

Same thing with a tool user I know (who is still around after decades and will remain nameless) - the technique is to use the old stuff to maintain key modules (undocumented of course).  Same behavior based in insecurity.

In terms of cultural implications, the negatives from inflexibility are harmful.  I think if organizations remove fear, encourage seasoned persons to grow and find ways to get buy-in to innovation (easier said than done), you won't have to pry legacy technology from their cold dead hands.  Bottom line - inflexibility is often a function of fear.

 

Re: You old crank...
  • 4/9/2013 10:08:30 PM
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Great post and discussion. Software platform decisions are filled with challenge - both technical and human. (Bryan's right) And if you're trying to advocate for one outcome - you MUST remain factual and open-minded. (Meta's right)

At the end of the day, if the decision doesn't go the way you really think is best - you have your own decision to make: Is your allegiance to the Analytics software more valuable than your current job?

Re: Some cautions
  • 4/9/2013 7:11:32 PM
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Oh yeah, we've all got plenty of stories like that!

Let me add a little something: if you've switched to a new product, and it's a disaster, are you sure it's the product?

There are crummy products, and there are products that are poor fits, to be sure. But there are also many cases where people buy perfectly good products, but don't bother to invest in training, or to plan and execute the implementation properly, and so on and so forth.

Recall a story I told in Secrets of a Software Vendor - about a prospective client who had already bought a product, and spent a lot of money, without the desired results. The vendor should have pushed training, the client should have bought it, but it was the software that got the blaim.

 

You old crank...
  • 4/9/2013 6:10:57 PM
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Bryan, do you think there's any danger in an analytics manager or other tool user who seems too attached to a particular vendor and/or software package coming off as overly inflexible or too old school to be of value to the modernizing data-driven world? In other words, what are the cultural implications here? 

Re: Some cautions
  • 4/9/2013 6:08:02 PM
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Hi Meta, your thoughts brought to mind a piece we ran a while ago from Tricia Aanderud, who shared here experience dealing with a bad tool situation. I'll share a bit here: 

"True story: The IT department at a small company decided it could save money if it removed one of two business intelligence tools long in use -- one more popular than the other.

Within a two-year period of IT's decision, the company not only had crippled its ability to complete analytics but also lost multiple key employees and ended up with an environment in which analytics became nonexistent. "Very dramatic," you're probably thinking, and I agree.

With hindsight being such a great teacher, here are the three biggest teaching points from the BI failure: 

Lesson 1: You can't move to an unproven system...

Lesson 2: Your job title doesn't make you the real expert...

Lesson 3: You must have a real tool champion in the business"

I bet you have your share of similar stories to share!

Re: Some cautions
  • 4/9/2013 2:05:36 PM
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Hi Noreen,

Regarding the first question – yes.  But those realities vary by agency and by where you are in the organization.  Of course there are other nuances based on whether you are in a federal, state or local/municipal agency.  Within and between agencies there can be competition for annual  funding based on the importance of the agency and shifts in public policy (in response to terrorism, domestic mass shootings, environmental disasters, economic crashes, trade disparities etc.).  In all this, you can also have 'interesting relationships' between program offices (they receive the funding to operate) and the project offices (they receive funding from the program offices).  In the cases where a project office is an IT group, there may be differences of opinion on system development methods, tools and technical infrastructure.  A common point of contention is that the IT offices that support the program offices may want to consolidate servers and applications based on the commonality of technical components.  That makes sense from a technical perspective.  Hence if a new tool or method comes out there may be an interest in migrating the program office systems to 'the new stuff'.  After all, the 'x-rays of a homeless person and a millionaire look the same'; hardware, software, data – it all looks the same from a technical perspective.  However from a business perspective, if the program office is producing public-facing  and non-public-facing products, there is a big concern that the 'money-shot deliverables' are not put at risk by gambling on changes that would not benefit the quality of the output.  In effect, program offices want to reduce unnecessary risks because their credibility and funding are riding on the public-facing deliverables.  This situation is complicated when new hires (for example) were trained in graduate school in R, STATA  or SPSS and the program offices may use SAS exclusively; the colleges that prepare the new generation of workers may be on a different software path than the program and project offices. Hence, the debates become 'conformity, total change or gradual change?'  Also there is the issue of licensing when small, female, minority-owned businesses want a seat at the software delivery table. Agencies may have to carve out some space for them – this can also generate discussions of software change.  A final thought is whether legacy applications are American Disabilities Act compliant.  For public agencies, the law may determine what software on is a person's desk.  These are the major public sector realities that I have seen (I've worked at all 3 public sector levels).  And at the end of the day, people seek to do what is moral, legal, undetectable or forgivable to accomplish their personal or organizational objectives.

Regarding the second question, the private sector is a different flavor, but it is still ice cream.  In that environment, management has the most leverage on software decisions, but they will use bottom-up ideas if it feeds the bottom line. Also keep in mind that private sector managers may not be in touch with cutting edge technology – their focus is on business objectives. They get feedback from those with boots on the ground, go to a conference, take a seminar, etc.  But in general monitoring software is not their primary concern unless it directly relates to them getting promoted or fired.  So I cannot make a blanket statement that public sector software changes are less likely (probability) – it will most likely happen at a slower pace due to bureaucratic dynamics. But the efforts to affect change and the push-backs will happen in both arenas – as seen from my journey.

Re: Some cautions
  • 4/8/2013 11:58:37 PM
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Bryan, are there any special realities as a public sector employee? Is software less likely to be switched than in the private sector?

Re: Some cautions
  • 4/8/2013 4:59:11 PM
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Hi Meta,

Thanks – those are good caveats and comments!  It is true, that within cultures/organizations, expressions can serve as boundary maintenance mechanisms. If you are conversant in the lingo then that means that 'you are one of us'.  Does it sustain the perception that the analyst's view is disconnected with the bottom line? – Yes, no question there.  And therein I believe is the core issue – the 'is-ought gap'.  I believe that the most successful analysts will have an appreciation for three perspectives – management, end user and technical.  But although I too am an advocate in analysts appreciating a holistic perspective,  in my journey, I have seen mostly just the opposite. Perhaps I have landed in very politicized environments, but I have come to take the class warfare you mention as a given – jockeying to keep your preferences in play is how we do business. Should things be this way? Absolutely not! That's why in general (please see some of my early posts)  I am strong advocate for analysts getting the big picture.  I agree with you 100% that individuated product loyalty can do much harm to the organization. 

But the hard reality is that we work in a very competitive world, especially in America.  Other nations may take a "what's best for the group" perspective.  But we provide individual rewards for individual efforts.   I too have worked places where there were efforts to support all products for all people and that had negative consequences for those organizations.  I have been a manager, a techie and an end user and have seen that everyone has preferences and tactics for getting what they want.  Managers want was it faster, better and cheaper; techies want  what is elegant; end users want what is easy to use and optimizes productivity.  And if people experience any success or sustained paychecks on a personal favorite, then changing for the good of the organization (be it public sector, private sector or academia) is not well received.

In stepping back from my post and stepping closer to your response, I can see how these suggestions are extremely parochial and are encouraging our readers to be self-centric vis-à-vis allocentric, but in my journey that is what I have experienced. As a manager, I have seen product choices made on the basis of a conference attended by senior managers (or a magazine read on a plane) and on the basis that the manager wanted a product that s/he was familiar with (if they were going to be promoted or fired based on the results then they wanted control of the product).  As a techie, especially as a male, I have a window from age 25 to 45/50 to make my mark.  From 50 to 65, it would be in my best interest to stay on the horse that brought me to that place (unless I grew professionally and was able and willing to learn new products)Males often lose organizational value after 50 can become insecure and self-serving during the last 15 years before retirement.  As an end user, once I had a tool that I learned without needing a terminal degree and had made me 'walk on water', changing products was not my choice.  I was fortunate to be a techie with a bottom line and customer view, but even at every level, there was a fight to retain the status quo.  There is also the situation where contractors hire H-1B visa analysts for staff augmentation. If they have been hired for specific labor categories, with specific skill sets at specific billing rates, then keeping the product status quo becomes a business priority for the vendor. 

 A different angle on product loyalty is the Census Bureau. Years ago, they standardized with SAS and  licensed most of the SAS product line.  Hence, that type of business decision is supported at every level – managers, developers and end users have a direct interest in keeping SAS there.

Hence I advocate for analysts to have a big picture view of analytics. However I have to balance that against the political realities that everyone is fighting for a footprint.  So if you cannot prove the business value and "If you can't clearly demonstrate the portability, interoperability, flexibility, and efficiency of the software, then advocating for its retention would be a waste of time (and make you look foolish)."  But if you can, then go for it. Not suggesting that analysts should perpetuate an image of the 'great unwashed'. However decisions that come from the top are sometimes made by the folks who made Scott Adams rich and may also be grounded in personal preferences and not company interests.  So in short – much thanks – you raised a perspective that I did not consider.  My paycheck supports 4 people, so protecting my own interests is very high on my list (SMILE)

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