Decision Making Is Inherently Collaborative

June 2, 2012
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PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC) recently published the “2012 issue 1” edition of its quarterly journal, “Technology Forecast.” This issue is chock full of perspectives and case studies about analytics — definitely worth a read. PWC has generously enabled readers to create their own custom PDF containing one or more articles; the full issue is a whopping 134 pages.


PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC) recently published the “2012 issue 1” edition of its quarterly journal, “Technology Forecast.” This issue is chock full of perspectives and case studies about analytics — definitely worth a read. PWC has generously enabled readers to create their own custom PDF containing one or more articles; the full issue is a whopping 134 pages.

PWC Technology Forecast 2012 issue 1.PNG

In this report, PwC defines the term new analytics as using “a rigorous scientific method, including hypothesis formation and testing, with science-oriented statistical packages and visualization tools.” PwC’s take is that business leaders who embrace the new analytics will be able to create cultures of inquiry that lead to better decisions throughout their enterprises. PwC made the case that new analytics enable an organization to quickly iterate and investigate numerous questions to improve its decision-making capabilities — such as making decisions related to complex, real-time events management, or making possible new, disruptive business opportunities such as the on-location promotion of sales to mobile shoppers.

I agree that data is an extremely important source of insight — of course! But as I was reading through the report, I found myself wondering, “What about the human aspect of decision making?” What about the questions, opinions, experiences, expertise, and persuasiveness and negotiation skills of people? Decision making is an inherently collaborative activity. People don’t sit alone by themselves in front of a computer and make data-driven decisions. (Usually, anyway.) We talk to people. We get others’ perspectives and views.

In this report, PwC really downplayed the role of human perspective in decision making. There are only a few mentions of the word “collaboration” and they generally refer to companies that have a culture of inquiry needed to achieve collaboration between IT and other parts of the business, or about better visualization and tablet interfaces leading to improved collaboration between business analysts and data scientists.

In my view, for an organization to develop a widespread culture of inquiry, people need to be able to communicate easily within the context of their decision apps. They need to be able to explore data together, whether they are online at the same time or not. They need to be able to easily co-create analytic apps so they can get to answers more quickly. So in my view any definition of next-generation analytics can’t be just about the data — it must also include the insights that reside in peoples’ heads, and provide a mechanism for unlocking and spreading this institutional knowledge.