A barrel of schnapps, an incompetent leader and business analytics
What do these three things have in common? They help illustrate the four steps for creating a measurement framework
Business analytics is about doing things better. Unfortunately, success isn't always enough – if you can't define, communicate or measure the value you're creating, it can be surprisingly hard to convince people of the value of business analytics. Communication is key, and miscommunication can cost you dearly.
One of the best examples is the somewhat absurd story of Joseph II: On Sept. 20, 1788, more than 10,000 men were killed or wounded because of a barrel of schnapps, an incompetent leader and the lack of a common vocabulary.
The sad story of Joseph II
It was a dark night when his cavalry vanguard arrived at Karansebes. They didn't find any Turks, but they did find a troop of happy Walachians with schnapps to spare. Shortly afterward, Joseph II's infantry approached and demanded their share of the alcohol. A fight broke out and the infantry shouted, "Turci! Turci!" to fool the others into thinking the Turks were attacking.
The ruse worked, and Joseph's cavalry fled. Unfortunately, the infantry's shouts were so convincing that the foot soldiers opened fire in earnest, emptying their rifles into the dark at the non-existent Turks. Their officers tried to gain control of the situation, but Joseph II had recruited broadly, and his largely non-German-speaking troops couldn't understand the officers' commands.
As a result, the small altercation devolved into total chaos, and by the end of the night Joseph II had fled for his life. When the Turks arrived two days later, they found an abandoned campground, 10,000 dead or wounded troops, and no Joseph II.
Learning from Joseph's mistakes
Know where you're going
For Joseph, one of his downfalls was a largely futile and misdirected war against the Turks. For business analytics managers, it's often chasing projects that are too large, have no clearly defined outcomes, or require competencies and assets that haven't yet been developed.
Having that road map is critical. By understanding and being able to explain how every activity and project creates value and leads to a point of true strategic differentiation, the business analytics team changes from simply delivering operational efficiencies to becoming a focal point for organizational success. While it's often overlooked, business analytics is about organizational transformation. Having a vision and a road map that explain how that transformation will occur is key to making it happen.
YOUR CHECKLIST FOR IDENTIFYING THE MEASURES
Speak the same language
Every change can be measured in one of three ways:
By defining a common measurement framework, data scientists can compare different initiatives against each other. And having a common and standard vocabulary makes it easier to communicate their value to the organization.
Four steps for creating a measurement framework
Joseph II's story ended badly. Dying a broken man in 1790, he asked that his epitaph read, "Here lies Joseph II, who failed in all he undertook." However, his mistakes are our lessons. While we may not be trying to unite Europe, we too have a vision for changing the world – by changing the way we do business.
This story appears in the Second Quarter 2012 issue of