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Get MORE DATA – even in an era of big data

Finding that 'Moneyball Moment' means learning the value of data, data, data

If you ever get to attend a Power Session with Matter Solutions, don’t pass it up. Last week I went to my second such session – fantastic. These sessions are complementary to a major conference and usually follow a keynote address. Besides being intellectually stimulating, they help you break the components from the keynote into tangible, practical take-home ideas and solutions. This session was titled “Finding the Moneyball Moment with Analytics.”

Billy Beane delivered the keynote address, ”Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game,” to about 150 financial services executives. He focused on finding the data and looking at in ways that you may never have looked at it before. This may not make you any friends, but the point is an improved ROI.

Focusing out loud

In this Power Session, the Matter Solutions facilitators separated the room into four groups of six or seven people. Each group had a huge white board and several large dry erase markers. On the white board was an 8 x 11 poster with instructions telling the group to briefly discuss the Billy Beane keynote presentation and then think of ideas that Beane’s presentation ignited in their mind – something that might lead to a Moneyball Moment in their worlds. Those ideas should be written on the white board. For instance, Beane said that the next big thing he hoped would change in baseball was healthcare.

The teams slowly gathered steam and then filled the boards with ideas that included:

  • Change the way that you look at the data
  • Remove the emotion
  • Base decisions on the math – even when you can’t immediately see the results
  • Power based on data
  • Be the trendsetter
  • Get the data – more data
  • How does the data contradict tradition or intuition
  • Challenge the facts and models with data

Draw me a picture

This is a photo of Team Four’s white board. On their board, they drew how they felt Beane’s methodology and their industry needs could combine. In the image you can see that there is a data warehouse in the top center. Traditional data is pulled in from the right and non-traditional data types, including unstructured data sources like social media, are pulled in from the left.

When you look below the data warehouse, you’ll see the various analysis paths that you could take. The team explained that you might ordinarily have only taken P1 (the traditional path to find the best player), but now that you have set a course to look at the data differently there are new parameters that you  might want to look at. So take a look at P2, P3 and P4 to see if you can find the best ROI. It’s all about finding the right metrics.

How does ‘this’ fit into ‘that’?

After another 20 minutes or so of white board discussion, the teams tried their hand at crafting models of their ideas from rubber bands, popsicle sticks, styrofoam balls, beads, tape and paper. I wish I had a photo of the models. In the art depiction of one team’s brainstorming, their non-traditional data was flown in from outer space by UFO. In all fairness, one of the art pieces that every team had in their box of goodies was a cute cutout of an alien. (Think back to how strange the idea of mining social media or text messages would have seemed 10 years ago!)

The standout message from all of the teams was to get the data. Don’t rely on the old way of doing things – the traditional data sources and the traditional way of analyzing the data. Test it, test it and test it again.

A spokesperson for Team Four said “Let’s be honest, if everyone is using the same data we are all going to come to the same conclusion. You’ve got to go and find nontraditional data and change the way that you look at the data.”

From Team Two, we heard: In financial services, the cost of failure is too high. We need to lower the cost of experimentation so that organizations other than those like Paypal or Google can be innovative.  We want to learn from failures.

“What we talked about was the danger of implicitly trusting the math,” said a spokesman for Team One. “That’s something that Billy Beane talked a lot about, but it’s something that we don’t believe in wholeheartedly. We think you have to test the models with the data and refine the models.”

Another member of Team One said, “What I believe we are all talking about here is client instrumentation – how do you get more data about your customers?” He said that today’s customers are providing firms with more and more customer data through social media and Internet use. “The question is, if banks are monitoring and analyzing social media as ‘the data source,’ are we getting all of the customer information? The idea here is that customer data is multidimensional. It may be hard to know if you have all of the information that you need to know your customer.”

Where from here?

The point of Power Sessions such as these is to get intellectuals in a room and stimulate their thinking in a way that it is not often challenged – purposefully change the environment. This session was at once difficult, easy, fun and challenging. Everyone left with something. One takeaway from today –  you must look at data differently. Step back and take another look. Other takeaways not mentioned above included:

  • Continue to collaborate within your organization to build an analytical framework,
  • Collaborate externally to build a network of peers, and
  • Work together to grow the analytical body.

But the Moneyball Moment seems to be: get MORE DATA – even in an era of big data.

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One Trackback

  1. By Analytics from the C-Suite on May 30, 2012 at 12:00 pm

    [...] last week during a Power Session at the SAS Financial Services Executive Summit. As explained in a recent post, these sessions provide a format for participants to gather into groups and discuss real business [...]

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