Analytics Overkill: Dashboards, Analysis and Big Data in the US Election
The presidential race was tight – or so we were told. What I found fascinating in the run-up to the election was the fact that no-one was sure enough to ‘call it’, to say who is likely to win. At least this is what the news presenters kept telling us.
The presidential race was tight – or so we were told. What I found fascinating in the run-up to the election was the fact that no-one was sure enough to ‘call it’, to say who is likely to win. At least this is what the news presenters kept telling us. I found that hard to believe considering that they had access to the most sophisticated analyses and all over the world data crunchers were looking at every little trigger and every new development, trying to see whether the Hurricane Sandy had shifted preferences or whether Diet Dr.Pepper, or the latest speeches in the swing states had had an impact.
What I am asking myself is whether this was Election Analytics Overkill? How comes that we have all the latest big data analytics, the most modern analysis software, and the shiniest election dashboards and we are still unable to predict an outcome?
In my job I help companies to create measures, dashboards, analytics solutions and performance monitoring approaches and what I am always preaching is that we have to make them meaningful. Unless they are telling us something they are useless and we are better off not having them!
Having great analysis and pretty dashboards is meaningless unless they help us answer our unanswered questions or provide us with information that guides our decision making. No doubt, the Obama and Romney camp have both analyzed every bit of data to the smallest level of detail and both have employed analysts to find the critical bits of information they can use to make a difference. Why is it that we have the best analysis, the best dashboards, the best software and yet we can’t seem to get meaningful insights?
Here are some interesting articles and great links:
- A great electoral dashboard
- An artilce in Forbes looks at how big data analytics have been used in the election
- Here is an analysis to see whether hurricane Sandy blew Romney off course
- This Forbes article discusses whether Diet Dr.Pepper, Pepsi, and Big Data determine the outcome of tomorrow’s election
- And some election analytics from the university of ellinois
My question to you though – why is it that we have the most sophisticated analytics and still no insights? Is it maybe that people want to make us believe it is a tighter race than we think? I feel that the data was much more insightful and predictions could have been much clearer. I was in the US just before and on election day and all the betting shops had made up their minds. They obviously looked at the data and used analytical models to predict the high likelihood of Obama to be re-elected as president. Maybe it’s time to rely less on opinions and more on facts! While journalists obviously had an interest in making us believe that the race was neck-to-neck (to boost viewing numbers) there is a lesson here for all of us: good analytics and facts will cut through any hype. This should be an important reminder for any business too – start looking at fact-based decision making – it works!
Here is a great article that I just stumbled upon and which i think makes the point very eloquently: Big data spells death-knell for punditry
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