Analytic Auteurs

February 2, 2010
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In my last blog I was looking for a label that I could use to describe what I do analytically. I don’t have an answer yet but I’ve found a new candidate: Auteur. Sounds pretentious enough to me to be interesting. Bare with me as I think that there might be something worth knowing.

In the January 29 edition of the New York Times, I read an article by Steve Lohr called ‘Steve Jobs and the Economics of Elitism’. In it, John Kao talks about the ‘auteur model’ of product innovation. The basic idea is ‘innovation driven by a single key figure’. Steve Lohr goes on to talk about Steve Job’s description of himself as a Team Leader:

“In choosing key members of his team, he looks for the multiplier factor of excellence. Truly outstanding designers, engineers and managers, he says, are not just 10 percent, 20 percent or 30 percent better than merely very good ones, but 10 times better. Their contributions, he adds, are the raw material of “aha” products, which make users rethink their notions of, say, a music player or cellphone.”

That’s when a light bulb went off in my head and I could relate this to my own experiences delivering analytic capabilities. How do they relate to

In my last blog I was looking for a label that I could use to describe what I do analytically. I don’t have an answer yet but I’ve found a new candidate: Auteur. Sounds pretentious enough to me to be interesting. Bare with me as I think that there might be something worth knowing.

In the January 29 edition of the New York Times, I read an article by Steve Lohr called ‘Steve Jobs and the Economics of Elitism’. In it, John Kao talks about the ‘auteur model’ of product innovation. The basic idea is ‘innovation driven by a single key figure’. Steve Lohr goes on to talk about Steve Job’s description of himself as a Team Leader:

“In choosing key members of his team, he looks for the multiplier factor of excellence. Truly outstanding designers, engineers and managers, he says, are not just 10 percent, 20 percent or 30 percent better than merely very good ones, but 10 times better. Their contributions, he adds, are the raw material of “aha” products, which make users rethink their notions of, say, a music player or cellphone.”

That’s when a light bulb went off in my head and I could relate this to my own experiences delivering analytic capabilities. How do they relate to Steve Jobs description? Well I always make a point of hiring trusted experts who I know are outstanding in their field of expertise.

Ipad  I know they are good because we have worked together before. This gives us a shared level of trust that is hard to beat.

They are the catalyst for exceptional delivery to the organisation. We think as a team and our combined skills are much greater than the sum of the individuals. What I also call the ‘multiplier’.

By multiplier, I am referring to the team’s collective ability to really change the way an organisation manages its information. Together we have critical mass. The Team is the catalyst that sparks creativity within the wider Analytic Community in the organisation. Like a chain reaction, the Analytic Community itself inspires their business divisions to develop ever greater insight and information management skills.

Now I never thought of myself as an auteur, but my favourite analogy for ‘doing analytics’ was making a movie. The analogy runs something like this:

As the director (think of me as a cross between Tim Burton and Spike Jonze) I assemble a team for 1 – 2 years and together we create the analytic solution the organisation needs. The solution is generally made up of two components. The first is a suite of information products (data marts, cubes, reports, dashboards, etc.). The second is the skills for the organisation to ‘self serve’ and create new information products without us.

We then we disperse to different places. Only to meet again when the next ‘movie’ opportunity arises.

My trusted experts are:

  • Business Analyst – Script Writer
  • Data Integrator – Special Effects
  • Solution Designer – Cinematographer
  • Information Designer – Set Designer/Head of Props
  • Quality Control – Post-Production
  • Change Agent – PR and Marketing

Why do the same people agree to work with me more than once? Well, you’ll have to ask them to really know. But I can tell you what I tell them when I’m trying to get them them for one more gig. In no particular order I promise them:

  • A real intellectual challenge
  • A core team they can trust
  • That they will learn from both the challenge and their fellow team members
  • Very good remuneration – at least as good as they will get elsewhere
  • Fun!

Don’t get me wrong. The core team does get new blood each time and sometimes people just muscle their way into the team by being damn good at what they do. Never underestimate serendipity and the pleasure at meeting another person of whom you think ‘wow – they’re good!’.

Wow is the thing that keeps me going. If you can’t be passionate, then the low points of any 2 year analytic journey are going to outweigh the high points. 

So that’s the analogy that has worked best for me in the past. Writing this down makes me want to go out there and do it all again!

Footnote: To the cynical bunch of people that know me – I have not written this blog in order to stroke Steve Jobs ego so that he will send me a free iPad. But Steve, if you really, really want to …

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