“Keeping Up With The Quants” Helps You Keep Up on Business Intelligence

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keeping up with quantsCitizens of ancient Japan appreciated the samurai practice Bushido – “the way of the warrior” – and its tenets of loyalty, martial arts skill and honor. Citizen cooperation and the samurai adherence to Bushido ways inspired peace in Japan that lasted until a formal military ushered the end of the samurai era in the late 1800s.

Analytic practitioners in business, unfortunately, lack a uniform “bushido” that can inform business leaders how to make better usage of data. This can lead to conflicts that can make all involved reach for a kitana sword.

But enough of the samurai metaphors….

Fortunately, more advanced books are becoming available to business managers seeking analytics to keep up on business intelligence.

Two master practitioners among business intelligence are Thomas Davenport, whom we reviewed with Analytics At Work and business and statistics professor Jinho Kim. They are authors of Keeping Up with the Quants: Your Guide to Understanding and Using Analytics .

The book delves into the strategic significance of how people and ideas are deployed before choosing any analytical solution.  Meant for managers, the book makes for great reading for leaders trying to corral data in their organization.

Your Data is Your Business

Keeping Up With The Quants has the capacity to extend the discussion about the usefulness of data. We increasingly read or hear the term “Big Data,” but many writers never get to the business intelligence end of the topic – in other words, how does analytics work beyond the numbers?  Davenport has revealed his analytical perspective in previous works, such as Judgment Calls. In Quants he and Kim waste no time digging beyond why big data is the new way to build a business, noting:

“Big data and analytics don’t just improve internal decision making. Many Internet-based organizations—Google, Facebook, Amazon, eBay, and others—are using so-called big data from online transactions not only to support decisions but to create new product offerings and features for customers.”

Perspectives That Give a Small Business Team “Big Smarts”

Small businesses that grow employees have to manage head count and how those resources are being used.  Because analytics beyond basic metrics can lead to a dedicated head for measurement, the book offers ideas as to how to grow your organization into the need rather than randomly select a resource.   The chapter “Framing the Problem” shows how to organize analytical challenges:

“The decision to forge ahead may be driven by a hunch or intuition. The standard of evidence at this point is low. Of course, the whole point of a qualitative analysis is to eventually apply some data and test your hunch. That’s the difference between analytical thinkers and others: They test their hunches with data and analysis. The most important thing in the problem recognition stage is fully understanding the problem and why it matters.”

The authors reveal stages and steps on how to assess and present information, all with straightforward reminders such as the following:

“Since analytical people are comfortable with technical terms … they often assume their audience would be too. But this is a tragic mistake.”

Conveniently, the segment “Solving the Problem” follows with probably the most actionable ideas for small businesses.  Within this segment and others, fun aspects abound to keep analysis points interesting. There’s a historical bit about Florence Nightingale’s work with mortality rates that ties into data visualization.  I liked the “Fido equation”, a fun version to explain what a model is and should do.  The imagined concept comes right before an aside on assigning variables within a model:

“As with the process of selecting variables, even quite subjective things can be measured in systematic ways…. No matter what data you have, there is always the possibility of getting more data, or different data from what you have originally employed in thinking about your problem.”

The authors’ take on models, variables and data visualization, makes the book a great choice to read prior to other specific analytic topics. You can read it before picking up Predictive Analytics and Big Data without programming language details examined in books like Yahoo Web Analytics.

If you find yourself going into a battle over data-based decisions, you’ll find Keeping Up With Quants as a suitable weapon to win the day.

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Pierre DeBois Pierre Debois is Associate Book Editor for Small Business Trends. He is the Founder of Zimana, a consultancy providing strategic analysis to small and medium sized businesses that rely on web analytics data. A Gary, Indiana native, Pierre is currently based in Brooklyn. He blogs about marketing, finance, social media, and analytics at Zimana blog.