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No Such Thing as a Free Lunch

by | May 16, 2017

So primarily I was there to meet a few customers, but in true no-such-thing-as-a-free-lunch, I also took the opportunity to look after our guest and write this blog. Now that’s what I call value for money!

ulleo / Pixabay

The event in question was a fireside discussion with Donald Farmer. (Qlik VP Innovation and Design, has been pushing the boundaries of data strategy for almost 30 years, developing, writing and speaking internationally on advanced analytics and innovation strategy.)

He talked, we listened. We asked questions, he listened and provided answers. I add the rather unnecessary ‘he listened’ because many speakers don’t; they look like they’re listening but don’t answer the question, Donald always returned to the question. A more engaging and polished speaker you’re unlikely to meet.

He covered a myriad of business intelligence subjects. Here’s one that stuck in my mind; the ‘gatekeeper v shopkeeper’ model.

The gatekeeper model locks down access so that users can only see areas that someone deems they should have access to. Often this drives users towards spreadsheets, cloud-on-a-credit-card and skunk-work solutions to access and share the data they need.

These are deemed unacceptable by the gatekeeper, but are a clear indication that the users are not getting the support they need.

This is largely unnecessary; effectively stifling the ability of analysts to discover information of interest within the data, and that is what they are paid for, right?

This resonated with me. Many, many, years ago, I worked in retail and spent happy hours working out why our sales/returns/stock/margin went up/down versus forecast/plan/last-year. There was no report available that gave this information. I had to dig, follow the data and find the answer.

And the answers often lay outside of ‘my data’.

Footfall, the number of people coming through the doors, is an excellent indicator of overall performance. As was the sales of other departments. Without access to their data, I couldn’t get the answers I needed.

Data on the weather was also important. Refreshing then, to realise that even all those years ago, someone had the foresight to include an external data feed of the daily weather as one of our data sources, albeit manually compiled from the daily paper and recorded on the wall of his office. Does the weather drive retail sales? When did you last buy an ice-cream?

Instead, Donald proposed that we BI specialists are ‘shopkeepers’. Our role is to package the data into a format the consumers want to buy. He gave an excellent analogy of artichoke hearts; no-one wants to buy raw artichoke hearts and prepare them; way too much work. But if we did all the work and sold them canned, then there would be demand. And once we knew there was demand for canned artichoke hearts, wouldn’t we look to expand our range? Other canned goods, different sizes, complementary products, you get the picture. Basically, serve up the data in consumable chunks to create and satisfy demand.

Artichoke and spinach dip anyone?

Geoff

Geoff blogs from a flat overlooking the intersection of Agile, Business, and Life

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